Can you change your early vote? Yes, in some states

So you’ve cast your ballot early, wanting to miss the expected lines at polling places, but now, let’s say, you have a change of heart.

Perhaps you’ve heard something about the person you voted for that you just don’t like. Maybe you think you should have considered other factors in your voting decision.

MICHIGAN, USA — Starting Sept. 24, Michigan voters can start submitting ballots to the state for the general election. The Michigan Secretary of State is encouraging people to vote early and to mail in their ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what happens if you submit a ballot early, and then change your mind?

The good news is, you are allowed to change your vote.

The process is called “spoiling” a ballot. Voters can spoil the ballot they already submitted through a written request to their clerk. Here’s how they can do that:

  1. The voter needs to sign the written request and ask for a new ballot to be mailed to them or they can pick it up in person at the clerk’s office.
  2. This request needs to be received by a clerk by 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31 if it is being submitted by mail. Voters can also spoil an absentee ballot in person at the clerk’s office until 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the election system has procedures in place to make sure everyone only gets one vote.

“If you do that, we will simply invalidate whatever previous ballot was sent to you and make that new ballot your vote. And so you’re there’s provisions like that in place to ensure if someone does try to replace their vote and invalidate their ballot, that we can track that,” she said.

There is a statewide ballot tracking system allows voters to keep tabs on the status of their ballot at michigan.gov/vote.

“We in Michigan have a statewide voter file that is updated in real time with every voters’ interaction. When you request your ballot to be sent to you, it’s noted in the file. When we receive your ballot back, it is noted in the file. When your ballot is counted, it’s noted in the file,” Benson said.

Absentee/mail-in voting rules vary by state. As of 2020, four states—ConnecticutMichiganMinnesota, and Wisconsin—allow a voter to change their vote after they have cast a ballot. In Connecticut, this varies by town. In the other three states, the provisions apply statewide. In the other 46 states, once an absentee/mail-in ballot has been cast, it cannot be changed.

The term spoiled is an election law definition that means the ballot is considered invalid and not counted by election officials. Voters spoil their initial ballot when they request a new ballot. The four states where a voter may change their vote after its been cast are:

  • Connecticut: The ability for a voter to cast a new vote after already submitting a ballot by mail varies by town.
  • Michigan: A voter can request a new absentee ballot by submitting a written request to their city or township clerk. Requests are due by 2 p.m. the Saturday before the election if made by mail or 4 p.m. the Monday before the election if made in person.
  • Minnesota: A voter can request that their local election office cancel the submitted absentee ballot and send a new one. The voter may then submit a new absentee ballot early by mail or vote in-person early or on election day.
  • Wisconsin: A voter can request a new ballot from municipal clerks. The clerk will cancel the original ballot and mail another. The deadline to request a new ballot is Oct. 29. The voter
  • See Voter Help List

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