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Voting 101

In a democratic society, we have the privilege of voting to choose the representatives who will work on the problems important to us. Here are some resources to help you navigate the world of voting.

Common Voting Terms

As a result of the passage of the "Promote the Vote" constitutional amendment in November, 2018 by Michigan voters, voter registration and absentee ballot procedures have changed. The office of Michigan's Secretary of State is working to implement the new policies, which are reflected here.

 

Absentee Ballot - A way to vote by mail instead of going to a polling place. In Michigan, following the passage of the Constitutional Amendment 18-3 in 2018, any registered Michigan voter can apply for and obtain an abesentee ballot. 

Ballot - a sheet of paper used to cast a secret vote


Constitutional Amendment - An addition or change to the state constitution, which requires a vote of the people.

Initiative - An issue put on the state ballot by a citizen petition.

Millage - A tax on property.  Local units of government, including school districts, may hold millage elections.

Political Party - an organization made up of people who think alike on various issues that seeks to attain power within a government. Michigan law does not define party membership; this is the responsibility of each political party.

Poll - the place where votes are cast or recorded -- usually used in plural (at the polls).

Precinct - The place where you vote. It is also called a polling place. Your local clerk's office can tell you where your precinct is located. There are a variety of devices in use in Michigan for recording your vote.


Primary - A candidate may appear on the general election ballot by winning a preliminary election called a primary. In Michigan, the state primary is held in August in even-numbered years as are most township primaries. City primaries may be held in odd-numbered years.

Referendum - A vote by citizens that approves or rejects an existing state or local law.

Registration - The process to get on the list of those able to vote on election day. In Michigan, voters may register in person, by mail, or online up to 15 days prior to an election. Voters may also register in person with their local clerk within 14 days of an election, up to and including Election Day.

Elections at All Levels

NATIONAL ELECTIONS

 

Officials we elect at the federal level:
            President & Vice President
            United States Senators
            United States Representatives

STATE ELECTIONS

 

Officials we elect at the state level:
            Governor
            Lieutenant Governor
            Secretary of State
            State Attorney General
            State Board of Education
            State Supreme Court and Appeals Court Judges
            The boards of the three largest Universities:  University of Michigan, Michigan                             State University and Wayne State University

LOCAL ELECTIONS

In addition to federal and state government, there are several kinds of local governments that we vote for including:
            Counties
            Cities, Villages, Townships
            School Districts

            Community Colleges

            District Libraries

            Circuit, Probate and District Court Judges

Rgistering to vote

As a result of the passage of the "Promote the Vote" constitutional amendment in November, 2018 by Michigan voters, voter registration and absentee ballot procedures have changed.  The office of Michigan's Secretary of State is working to implement the new policies, which are reflected here.

In order to vote in Michigan you must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old by election day and a resident of the city or township in where you register. The deadline to register to vote is no longer 30 days before an election. Under the new 2018 law, voters may register in person*, by mail, or online up to 15 days prior to an election. Voters may also register in person with their local clerk within 14 days of an election, up to and including Election Day. A voter registering in the final 14 days, including Election Day, will need to show proof of residency in addition to proof of identity (or an ID that proves both). A voter wishing to register on Election Day must do so with a city, township or county clerk, or a deputized staff member. These individuals are usually NOT at the polling location, so it is best if the voter goes directly to their city of township clerk's office.

*You can register by going to your county, city or township clerk's office or you can go to your local Secretary of State office. To find your local clerk, click here.

When eligible citizens who are not already registered to vote complete a driver’s license or personal
identification card transaction, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they affirmatively decline. Registered voters will have their records updated if their address or other information has changed

To confirm your registration and find out where your precinct is, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center.

Download a voter registration form

absentee ballots

The statements below are a result of the passage of the Constitutional Amendment 18-3 in 2018:

An absentee ballot is a way to vote if you are unable to get to your polling place on election day. Your request for an absentee ballot must be in writing and can be submitted to your city or township clerk by 2 p.m. on the Saturday prior to the election.

To download an absentee ballot application, click here.

  • The signed application must be sent to your local clerk; to find your local clerk, click here.
  • For more information about voting by absentee ballot, please visit here.