Thursday, October 22, 2020

A first-time Michigan voter guide

October 17, 2019

The voting process can be tricky and confusing for first-time participants ⁠— luckily, The State News created a guide for those that are looking to partake in Michigan's political process.

Step one: Registering to vote

All 18 year-old American citizens are eligible to vote, but in order to cast your ballot you must be registered to vote. You do not have to be 18 the day you register to vote, but you must be 18 on election day.

Registering can be done in-person at any Secretary of State's office, or online at websites like vote411.org.

To register online you must have a Michigan ID or drivers license, or the last four digits of your social security number. If you have neither, the state will assign you a random voter ID number.

After filling out the necessary forms online the site will prompt you to print out your voter registration form that you have to mail to the address provided on your form ⁠— which can be your home address, or your East Lansing address.

Once your form has been processed you will be sent a voter registration card. Presenting the card is not necessary but removes the hassle of voting without one.

Since Proposal 3 passed in 2018, there is no registration deadline, but potential voters are encouraged to begin the process earlier.

Starting 14 days before the election, potential voters must register in person at the Secretary of State or clerk's office.

Step two: Finding your polling place

Once you're registered and eligible to vote you'll need to know where to vote.

Finding your polling place is possible online. You'll need either your drivers license number or your full name, birthday and zip code.

Entering the information will provide you with your polling place, their operating hours and upcoming elections. Some may have sample ballots for upcoming elections as well.

Step three: Casting your vote

Now that you're registered and you know where to vote, it's time to let your voice be heard.

If your polling place is nearby, simply go to your polling place, wait in line and follow the instructions given to you by the volunteers running the polling place.

Polls in Michigan are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If your voting location is too far from where you are, you can always vote via an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballots

An absentee ballot lets you vote remotely from your home if you are unable to reach your polling place.

To obtain an absentee ballot you must submit a request in writing or via email before 5 p.m. the Friday before the election.

The Michigan Secretary of State's website has a printable absentee ballot form as well as a tool to locate your local clerk. Print out the form, fill it out and then mail it to your respective city clerk before the deadline and you will receive your absentee ballot in the mail.

Fill out your ballot and return it to your clerk before 8 p.m. on election day. You may mail your ballot back to your clerk, or hand deliver your ballot before the deadline.

If you're mailing your ballot back it's important to have it out as soon as possible so you don't miss the deadline. Your signature must be on the return envelope, and only you, a family member, a person residing in your household, a mail carrier, or an election official can return your absentee ballot — so don't have your lab partner do it for you.

Important things to know:

There are rules and regulations when it comes to voting.

A photo ID, while not necessary, speeds up the process. If you do not have one you will have to sign an affidavit, confirming identity is required when registering.

Don't wear, distribute, or display any political imagery at the polls. Michigan prohibits the display of election-related materials within 100 feet of a polling place. This also includes signs and leaflets.

Cameras are also prohibited at polling locations under Michigan law.

Primary votes must be for one party. For example, a democratic presidential candidate could not be selected alongside a republican senate candidate. In general elections however, split-ticket voting is allowed.

You can vote 45 days before the election by submitting an absentee ballot.

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