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Dowagiac clerk shares answers to voter FAQs

DOWAGIAC — The Nov. 3 election is just weeks away — leaving many southwest Michigan residents wondering how to fill out their absentee ballots and prepare before election day is here.

Dowagiac City Clerk Patty Patano recently shared a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the Nov. 3 election.

Q:  If I need to call or see the City Clerk, what are the hours of availability before the Nov. 3 election?

A:  City Clerk Patty Patano is in the office from 1 till 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The clerk will also be in the office all day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31. Feel free to call with any questions at (269) 783-2502 or email

Q:  If I have voted straight ticket and there are candidates who are the only ones running for a particular office — but not of my straight ticket party — can I vote for them?

A:  Yes, you may vote for those candidates who are listed as the only ones running for an office.

Q:  I sent in my absentee ballot, and I voted straight party ticket and then went and voted individually for each member of that party as well, does my vote count?

A:  Yes, as long as you voted for the candidate of the same party your vote counts.

Q:  I marked my ballot with a felt tip marker and it bled through my ballot.  Is that a problem?  If so, what do I do?

A:  Yes. You should use only a black or blue ballpoint pen to mark your ballot.  If you used a felt tip marker, red pen or another color, please call the city clerk and advise that you need to spoil your ballot.  Bring that ballot to City Hall and the clerk will spoil your incorrect ballot and provide you a new one.

Q:  What is a valid way to mark my ballot?

A:  The best way to make sure your vote counts is to carefully fill in the oval with a blue or black ballpoint pen.

Q:  What markings will make my ballot invalid?

A:  Your ballot will be rejected if you make any marking outside the oval to indicate your vote. For example, you cannot make a checkmark, yes, circle or an “X” next to the oval.

Q:  Are there other markings that will cause a false read and make my ballot invalid?

Yes.  If you cross out an oval that has been filled in and mark another oval or if you write “mistake” or “wrong” next to an oval, the machine will not read that vote.

Q:  Is there early voting

in Dowagiac?

A:  No.  However, you may vote by absentee ballot up until 4 p.m. on the day before the election, Monday, Nov. 2.

Q:  What’s the difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting?

A:  There is no difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting. They are just different names for the same thing.

Q:  Can I get an absentee ballot?

A:  Are you 18 or older and registered to vote? If the answer is yes, you can get an absentee ballot! If you’re 18 or older and not registered to vote, you can register and request an absentee ballot at the same time.

Q:  How does absentee voting work?

A:  If you want to have an absentee ballot mailed to you, you have to request and fill out an application for absentee ballot form and either mail it to our city clerk or place it in the drop box at the front of City Hall.  The application has to be received by the clerk no later than 10 a.m. the day before the election.

Q:  When is the deadline to register to vote?

A:  You can register to vote on election day and get an absentee ballot by going to the clerk’s office at the same time. (But if you’re down to the wire on election day or the day before, you will have to fill in your ballot in the clerk’s office.)

Q:  If I vote permanent absentee, will I receive an application each time I vote?

A:  Yes, you will always receive an absent voter application for each election.  On the absentee application form, you can choose to vote absentee in just the Nov. 3 general election or to become a permanent absentee voter.

Q:  How is absentee voting done?

A:  Once your absentee application has been received and recorded, the city clerk will mail the ballot to your preferred address. You will then receive an actual ballot and vote like you normally would.  The ballot will be in a grey envelope to keep your ballot protected.  Please put the ballot in the gray secret envelope and then place it in the larger green and white envelope, sign and date that envelope and return to the clerk. The city of Dowagiac has a drop box for ballots at the front of city hall.  Ballots go directly into the city vault.

Q:  Can I track the status of my ballot once I return it?

A:  Yes, you can track your ballot online by going to  You can then select “Vote at home (Absentee)” and select “Did my ballot arrive?” You can then enter your name, birth month and year and zip code.  The system will then search your ballot and provide dates that track the progress of your absentee ballot. 

Q:  What is the best way to return my absentee ballot?

A:  The U.S. mail is obviously an option. However, City Hall has a drop box in front of the building at 241 S. Front St. This is a safe, secure and easy way to also return your ballot. 

Q:  What if I want to change my vote, but I’ve already returned my ballot?

A:  According to the Secretary of State’s office, a voter must sign a request and state that they would like a new absentee ballot mailed to them.  Or a request can state that they would like to vote at the polls. This request must be received in the mail by 10 a.m. the day before the election, Nov. 2. An absentee ballot may be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 4 p.m. the Monday prior to the election.

Q:  I have concerns about voting in person during Covid-19?

A:  The City of Dowagiac has moved some polling locations near City Hall so that each ward has a separate space of its own.  Polling places are as follows:

Ward 1:

James Snow Building, Community Room, 302 S. Front St.; Dowagiac

Ward 2:

COA, Front Street Crossing, 227 S. Front St., Dowagiac

Ward 3:

Dowagiac City Hall, second Floor, 241 S. Front St., Dowagiac

There is a Ward Map on the home page of the city’s website, The map makes it easy to find your street and determine which Ward you are located in.  If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to call City Clerk Patty Patano at (269) 783-2502.

Q:  What time do the polls open and close on Election Day?

A:  The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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