Voter Information FAQs
Q: Am I eligible to register to vote?
To register to vote you must be...
- a U.S. citizen;
- at least 18 years of age by election day;
- a resident of Michigan and the city or township where you are applying to register to vote.
Q: Where do I register to vote?
You can register to vote for federal, state, and local elections by mail; at your county, city, or township clerk's office; or by visiting any Secretary of State branch office.
In addition, the following State agencies offer voter registration services to their clients: Department of Human Services, the Department of Community Health and the Department of Career Development. Military recruitment centers also provide voter registration services.
Q: When should I register to vote?
You must register at least 30 days before the election. This gives the clerk time to process the forms and send you a Voter Identification Card. You must also re-register to vote whenever you move to a new city or township.
Q: I recently moved, do I need to re-register to vote?
Whenever you move to a new city or township, you must re-register to vote. If you move within a city or township, you must update your address. This can be handled through your local clerk's office, at a Secretary of State branch office, by mail or at any other location where voter registrations are accepted. Michigan voters must use the same residential address for voter registration and driver's license purposes. Consequently, if you submit a driver's license address change, it will be applied to your voter registration. Similarly, if you submit a voter registration address change, it will be applied to your driver's license.
Q: I'm a first-time voter and wish to vote in an upcoming election.
If you have never voted in Michigan and register by mail, you must appear in person to vote in the first election in which you wish to participate. This requirement does not apply if (1) you personally hand deliver the mail registration form to your county, city or township clerk's office instead of mailing the form (2) you are 60 years of age or more (3) you are disabled or (4) you are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
If you have never voted in Michigan and register by mail, you may also be subject to a new identification requirement provided under federal law. The identification requirement is explained on the mail-in registration form.
Q: How can I obtain a Mail-In Voter Registration Form?
A mail-in voter registration form (PDF file) can be obtained here. Mail the completed form to the address indicated on the form. If you register by mail, you must vote in person at your assigned precinct the first time you vote, unless you are:
- disabled as defined by state law
- 60 years of age or older
- temporarily residing overseas.
If you are temporarily outside the U.S., you may use a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) form to register. The FPCA forms are distributed through U.S. embassies and military bases. A Michigan resident who moves and registers out of state may not re-register to vote in Michigan until he or she reestablishes residency here.
You may also register at the same time you renew your driver's license in person, or by mail. Eligible drivers receive a voter registration application in the mail with their driver's license renewal information.
Additional information and assistance can be obtained through the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Overseas Vote Foundation.
Q: Can I receive on-site voting assistance at an upcoming election?
Federal and state law requires every city and township to provide accessible registration and voting locations for voters who are disabled.
If you require voting assistance, ask the election workers for help; a reason for the needed assistance does not have to be stated. Two inspectors will assist you in the voting station. An elector who is blind, disabled, or unable to read or write may be assisted with his or her ballot by any person of the voter's choice, except the following: the voter's employer or agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of a union to which the voter belongs.
For more information, contact Susan Burton. Hearing-impaired residents may contact the Bureau of Elections at (517) 241-4320 (TTY).
Q: How do I request an Absentee Ballot?
Absentee voter ballots are available for all elections. They provide voters with a convenient method for casting a ballot when they are unable to attend the polls on Election Day.
As a registered voter, you may obtain an absentee voter ballot if you are:
• age 60 years old or older
• unable to vote without assistance at the polls
• expecting to be out of town on election day
• in jail awaiting arraignment or trial
• unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons
• appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.
A person who registers to vote by mail must vote in person in the first election in which he or she participates. The restriction does not apply to overseas voters, voters who are handicapped or voters who are 60 years of age or older. (Voting in person on one governmental level clears the restriction on the other levels. For example, if a voter subject to the restriction votes in person at a school election, the voter would be free to obtain an absentee ballot for the first state election in which he or she wishes to participate.)
Your request for an absentee voter ballot must be in writing and can be submitted to your township clerk.
Your request must include one of the six statutory reasons stated above and your signature. You must request an absentee voter ballot by mailing the online application, with a letter or post card, or you can obtain a pre-printed application form at your local clerk's office. Requests to have an absentee voter ballot mailed to you must be received by your clerk no later than 2 p.m. the Saturday before the election.
Once your request is received by the local clerk, your signature on the request will be checked against your voter registration record before a ballot is issued. You must be a registered voter to receive an absentee ballot. Requests for absentee voter ballots are processed immediately. Absentee voter ballots may be issued to you at your home address or any address outside of your city or township of residence.
After receiving your absentee voter ballot, you have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to complete the ballot and return it to the clerk's office. Your ballot will not be counted unless your signature is on the return envelope and matches your signature on file. If you received assistance voting the ballot, then the signature of the person who helped you must also be on the return envelope. Only you, a family member or person residing in your household, a mail carrier, or election official is authorized to deliver your signed absentee voter ballot to your clerk's office.
If an emergency, such as a sudden illness or family death prevents you from reaching the polls on Election Day, you may request an emergency absentee voter ballot. Requests for an emergency ballot must be submitted after the deadline for regular absentee voter ballots has passed but before 4 p.m. on Election Day. The emergency must have occurred at a time that made it impossible for you to apply for a regular absentee voter ballot. Your local clerk will have more information about emergency absentee voter ballots.
Voting is one of the most cherished and fundamental rights in our country. If you are eligible to obtain an absentee voter ballot and cannot attend the polls on Election Day, use of the absentee voter ballot is strongly encouraged.
Q: How can I check on the status of my absentee ballot request?
You can check on the status of your absent voter ballot request by contacting your clerk's office.
Q: I am in the military. How do I register to vote and request an absentee ballot?
Members of the military and their spouses and dependents may register to vote at their last residence in Michigan. These voters are exempt from the registration deadline established for an election. The easiest way such voters can register to vote is by using a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The FPCA serves as both a voter registration application and an absentee ballot request. The FPCA is available online. The voter simply completes the form and mails it the clerk's office where he or she last resided.
Q: I am a United States citizen residing overseas. How do I register to vote and request an absentee ballot?
A Michigan resident who is residing outside the territorial limits of the United States may register in the city or township where his or her residence was located in Michigan - even if an established place of residence is no longer maintained in the city or township. Overseas citizens are exempt from the registration deadline established for an election. Additional information and assistance can be obtained through the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Overseas Vote Foundation
Q: I must vote in person, because I registered to vote by mail and have not voted in Michigan before. Is there a way I can vote absentee?
Under Michigan law, if you register to vote by mail, you must appear in person to vote in the first election in which you wish to participate (this provision does not apply if you are over 60 years old, disabled or overseas voter.) If you are subject to the "voting in person" requirement and have a need for a absent voter ballot, you can satisfy the requirement by requesting an absent voter ballot in person from the clerk of the city or township where you are registered to vote by the day preceding the election.
Q: Are absentee votes always counted?
Yes. Absentee ballots simply allow voters who are eligible to cast ballots prior to Election Day. They are counted on Election Day along with all ballots voted at the polls.
Q: Can someone convicted of a felony register and vote? Can a person confined in jail or prison register and vote?
MCL 168.492a reads: "A person confined in a jail, who is otherwise a qualified elector, prior to trial or sentence may, upon request, register under section 504. The person shall be deemed a resident of the city, township, and address at which he resided before confinement. A person while confined in a jail after being convicted and sentenced shall not be eligible to register."
MCL 168.758b reads: "A person who, in a court of this or another state or in a federal court, has been legally convicted and sentenced for a crime for which the penalty imposed is confinement in jail or prison shall not vote, offer to vote, attempt to vote, or be permitted to vote at an election while confined."
Given the above restrictions, a Michigan resident confined in jail or prison that is awaiting arraignment or trial is eligible to register and vote. A Michigan resident who is serving a sentence in jail or prison after conviction cannot register or vote during his or her period of confinement. After a Michigan resident who is serving a sentence in jail or prison is released, he or she is free to participate in elections without restriction.
Q: I lost my voter registration card. Do I need it to vote? How do I get a new one?
You do not need to present a voter registration card in order to vote. Contact your township clerk in order to receive a new voter registration card.
Q: Do I need to show identification in order to vote?
Michigan does have a voter identification requirement at the polls. Voters are asked to present an acceptable photo ID such as a Michigan driver's license or identification card. Please note that voters who do not have an acceptable form of ID or failed to bring it with them to the polls still can vote. They simply sign a brief affidavit stating that they're not in possession of a photo ID. Their ballots are included with all others and counted on Election Day.
Q: Does Michigan allow early voting?
No. While some states allow all voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day, Michigan does not have early voting. Of course, qualified Michigan voters can cast absentee ballots prior to Election Day.
Q: Can I wear election-related clothing to the polls?
Michigan has prohibited the practice of displaying election-related materials at the polls for decades. This includes clothing and buttons as well as materials such as pamphlets, fliers and stickers. You cannot display such items in the polling place or within 100 feet of an entrance to a polling place. If you go to the polls with a shirt or button bearing election-related images or slogans, you will be asked to cover or remove it.
Q: Must I vote the entire ballot?
You are not required to vote the entire ballot. You may pick and choose the races or ballot questions for which you want to vote. Skipping sections of the ballot does not invalidate your ballot.
Q: Does a "straight" ticket cover all candidates in that party?
Yes. At the top of each political party's column on the ballot, there is an opportunity to vote "straight" party, which selects all candidates on that party's ticket with a single vote. If you vote a straight party ticket, there is no need to vote again for any individual candidate in the party column. However, if you do vote straight party and then vote for an individual candidate in that same party, it will not invalidate your vote for that candidate.
Q: Can I vote a "split" ticket?
You may "split" your ticket by voting for candidates of different parties in the November general election. This differs from the August primary in which you must confine your votes to a single party column. Even if you choose a "straight" ticket, you may cross over and vote for candidates of a different party.
Q: Can voters be challenged based on home foreclosures?
The compilation of home foreclosure information alone does not provide sufficient reason to challenge a person's voting status. In fact, the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties are in agreement that so-called foreclosure lists do not provide a reasonable basis to challenge voters.
Q: Can I use a camera in the polls?
No. The use of video cameras, still cameras and other recording devices are prohibited in the polls when they are open for voting. This includes still cameras and other recording features built into many cell phones. The ban applies to all voters, challengers, poll watchers and election workers. Exceptions are made for credentialed members of the news media though certain restrictions remain.
Q: The Rights of Voters with Disabilities
The United States Constitution guarantees every U.S. citizen age 18 or older the right to vote. Our state constitution further defines the right to vote by also requiring voters to be residents of Michigan and registered to vote in their city or township of residence.
Other than city or township residency and age requirements, state and federal laws do not place any other restrictions on the right to vote. Voting allows us to shape public policy and determine who leads our communities, state and nation. Our right to vote is basic to our system of democracy, and depends on all people having full and equal access to the ballot.
Voting at the polls can present a unique set of challenges to people with disabilities. Federal and state laws require Michigan's cities, townships and villages to provide a reasonable number of accessible registration facilities. It is the intent of the law to ensure that voters with disabilities are fully able to exercise their voting rights at the polls. Any action or physical barrier that prevents voters with disabilities from casting a ballot is unacceptable.
To fulfill the intent of the laws, election officials must consider access from outside and inside the polling place. Problems with the physical surroundings such as narrow doorways, stairs, broken pavement and other obstacles outside can prevent voters with disabilities from entering a polling place. Inside a polling place, issues like inadequate lighting and seating, and voting stations that cannot accommodate a person who is seated can further hamper someone's right to vote.
To ensure that proper accessibility is maintained, federal and state laws require polling places to remove or make accommodations for any barriers that prevent voters with disabilities from voting. Care should be taken to ensure that the polling place is accessible - doors should not be blocked, alternatives to stairs such as ramps or elevators should be available, and lighting and seating should be adequate. Furthermore, at least one voting station should be adapted to allow a person to vote while seated.
Voters with disabilities who require assistance in casting a ballot may receive assistance from another person if the person assisting the voter is not the voter's employer, agent of that employer or an officer or agent of a union to which the voter belongs.
Q: I would like to work the polls on Election Day
If you have ever wondered how to become more active in government, there are plenty of opportunities for you that do not involve running for elected office. Michigan has 83 counties, 274 cities, 1,242 townships and 259 villages. During an election, each of these units of government requires a staff of paid workers to work at the polls.
Precinct inspectors are people who are paid to assist voters at the polls on Election Day. Registered voters interested in serving as election inspectors must submit an election inspector application to their local clerk. In addition to their name, address and date of birth, applicants must include their political party preference and qualifications to fill the position such as education or experience.
A precinct inspector must be a registered voter of the county. They cannot be a challenger, candidate, member of a candidate's immediate family, or a member of the local Board of Canvassers. Anyone convicted of a felony or an election crime may not serve.
Precinct inspectors are covered by the federal Minimum Wage Act.
Your city or township clerk will be able to answer any questions about how to apply to become a precinct inspector. Why not consider helping your community and becoming more politically active by becoming a precinct inspector?
Q: Is there a way I can help register voters?
Yes. Most voter registration drives use this mail-in voter registration form. Voters simply need to complete a Voter Registration Volunteer Form and submit it to their township clerk. If voters who register with this form have never voted in Michigan before, they must vote in person the first time they vote unless they are 60 years of age or more, disabled or overseas.
Q: I still need more information. Where can I go?
For more information, visit the Secretary of State's Web site at: http://www.michigan.gov/sos
The following features may be of interest:
- Voter Information Center: Allows voters to confirm their registration status, obtain information on the location of their polling place, link to candidate Web sites and obtain other election-related information.
- Citizens' Guide to Voting Systems: Provides complete instructions on operating the voting equipment used in your jurisdiction to conduct elections.
- Campaign Finance Statements Online: Offers access to the reports and data filed by candidates, PACs, and political organizations to disclose their campaign finances.
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