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Your candidate dropped out? Some Michigan residents can vote twice

Image: Voting in Michigan
Carol Kenney fills out her ballot as she votes at the Emmanuel Bethel Church polling station on primary day as Michigan residents head to the polls in Royal Oak, Michigan on Feb. 28, 2012. Copyright Joe Raedle Getty Images file
Copyright Joe Raedle Getty Images file
By Adam Edelman with NBC News Politics
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The key Midwest state goes the polls on Tuesday as Biden and Sanders duel for delegates.


When it comes to absentee voting, Michigan allows do overs — and tens of thousands of residents may do just that.

Michigan, which goes the polls on Tuesday, permits residents who have cast an absentee to change their vote — known as "spoiling" a vote.

Under the rules, these voters can change their vote for any reason — although a common reason for doing so is to change the vote from a candidate who has exited the race to one who's still in it.

The unusual rule could prove to be used frequently this year in Michigan, because several candidates have exited the Democratic presidential primary race in just the past few days.

Pete Buttigiegdropped his bid last Sunday, while Amy Klobuchar left the the next day. They both endorsed former Joe Biden on Monday. Mike Bloomberg ended his campaign on Wednesday and also backed Biden. Elizabeth Warren quit the race Thursday, although she hasn't made an endorsement.

According to Michigan's office of the secretary of state, 24,109 absentee ballots — cast in both party primaries (the Democratic and Republican Party are both holding a primary election on Tuesday) — had been spoiled as of 2 p.m. Friday. That number is rapidly climbing, election officials said.

At the exact same point in 2016, 3,094 absentee ballots — cast in both the Democratic and GOP primaries — had been spoiled.

The numbers of absentee ballots — requested, sent and returned — are larger this year, due to a "no-excuse absentee ballot" state constitutional amendment passed by Michigan voters in 2018 that allowed voters to cast absentee ballots for any reason. Previously, Michigan voters who wanted to cast an absentee ballot had to provide a reason for wanting to do so.

So far in 2020, the office has sent out 924,340 absentee ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primary elections in the state. Of those, 599,644 have been returned.

Under Michigan election rules, those exits mean that absentee voters in the state who'd already cast a ballot for any of those candidates can "spoil" their ballot — and vote again.

"If a voter has already voted absentee and wishes to change their vote (because the candidate has dropped out of the race, or for any other reason), a voter can spoil their ballot by submitting a written request to their city or township clerk," Michigan's office of the secretary of state, which runs the states elections, says on its website.

Under the rules, an absentee voter can request that his or her absentee ballot be spoiled and indicate whether they want a new ballot mailed to them or if they will vote at the polls on Tuesday.

Absentee voters can also spoil their ballots in person at their city or township clerk's office before 4 p.m.on the Monday before the election. At the clerk's office, the absentee voter can obtain a new absentee ballot or declare that they will vote at the polls. If the voter chooses to cast another absentee ballot, it must be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

That voters can essentially change their pick could favor Biden. The latest poll in the state — one released Wednesday by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV— showed Biden leading Bernie Sanders 29 percent to 23 percent.

Bloomberg got 11 percent, Warren got 7 percent, Buttigieg got 6 percent and Klobuchar got 3 percent.

Supporters of Bloomberg and Klobuchar — who, like Biden, ran as moderates — are likely to throw their support to the former vice president.

Supporters for Buttigieg and Warren, however, are split. Recent polling by Morning Consult found his backers divided almost evenly over their second choices, between Sanders and Biden. Another Morning Consult poll this week found that Warren supporters leaned toward Sanders as their second choice over Biden, but not by much.

As a result, Biden would be all but certain to add to his lead over Sanders by netting supporters from all four newly former candidates. Sanders would only benefit — and only in part — from Warren's departure.

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