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early voting

An absentee ballot in an envelope.
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Lots of people have been surprised to learn that absentee voters in Michigan can change their ballots even if they've already cast them – as long as they do it by 4 p.m. on Monday.

"The old ballot will be voided," said Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams. "It will not be counted."

Woodhams said absentee voters can request a re-do for any reason. But it's usually to correct a mistake, like voting for too many candidates or skipping portions of the ballot.

"This is really an uncommon thing," Woodhams said. "But it does happen from time to time."

Last month the state approved petition language for three more ballot proposals – but the organizers of one isn’t satisfied. She's not dissatisfied with what the state did, but with the language her group submitted. They want to make sure they get it as close to right as possible.

They’ve talked to lawyers, revised the wording, and plan to ask the state to allow them to substitute the new text. After that, they have to try and get 315,654 valid signatures.

Last week I discussed a new bill that would make it easier for citizens to get absentee ballots in Michigan, a bill sponsored by a Republican state representative, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, and enthusiastically supported by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

She’s also a conservative Republican and Michigan’s chief elections official. The bill is scarcely radical; it would merely allow any voter who wants an absentee ballot to get one. Two-thirds of the states already allow what is called “no-excuse” absentee voting.

For years, Michigan has made it harder to cast a vote than most other states. Most states now have early voting, where you can show up at the polls and cast a vote on certain days before the election.

Most states also allow anyone to request an absentee ballot who wants one, no questions asked. There are only fourteen states that don’t allow either option. And Michigan, along with Mississippi and Alabama, is one.

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Election Day is just under a month away.

But Michigan Radio political commentator Jack Lessenberry has already voted – at his kitchen table, with an absentee ballot.

If you are a politician, or promoting one of the ballot proposals and want to influence my vote, don’t waste your time.

I voted a week ago, by absentee ballot, even though I may be home on election day. I can do that because I am 60 years old. Hey, you should be able to get some benefit out of being 60.

But here’s the thing. Unless you are my age or older, you can’t legally get an absentee ballot, except in a very few cases, mostly if you know you are going to be in jail on election day, or out of town.