Make Sure You Are Registered
Voting Before Election Day
All Michigan voters have the right to vote before Election Day. You can do this in person or by mail. If you want to vote before election day, you can ask for an absentee ballot online. You can also fill out the paper application and mail, e-mail, fax, or hand deliver it to your local clerk. Use the Michigan Voter Information Center’s Find Your Clerk page to find your local clerk’s contact information. If you want to vote before election day, your request must be received by 5:00 p.m. the Friday before the election.
After you get your ballot, you have until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day to return your ballot to the clerk’s office. Only you, an immediate family member or person residing in your household, a mail carrier, or an election official can deliver your ballot to the clerk. Be sure to sign the envelope with your official signature. The ballot will not be counted unless the signature on the return envelope matches the signature on file. This is either from your voter registration record or from your Michigan driver’s license or state ID. You are allowed to get help filling out the ballot. However, the person helping you cannot be your employer or a representative of your labor union. If you get help from someone else, they must also sign the return envelope.
To vote in person before Election Day, go to your local clerk’s office to request a ballot and fill it out there. You can also choose to bring the ballot home with you to return later. Be sure to sign the envelope with your official signature.
The Permanent Absentee Voter List
When you fill out the form to ask for a ballot to vote before election day, there is an option to be put on the permanent absentee voter list. Please note that joining this list will not automatically get you an absentee ballot in each election. Joining this list only means you will be mailed an application for an absentee ballot. You still need to fill out and return the request to get a ballot for each election.
Emergency Absentee Voting
If you do not ask for a ballot before 5:00 p.m. the Friday before an election but have an emergency that comes up after that deadline, you might be able to get an emergency absentee ballot. An emergency absentee ballot is only for emergencies that keep you away from the polls on Election Day. Some examples are an illness or death in the family. You can only get an emergency absentee ballot if the emergency happened after the deadline passed to vote before Election Day. To learn more about emergency absentee voting, read Requesting an Emergency Absentee Ballot.
You can ask for an emergency absentee ballot from 5:00 p.m. the Friday before an election, until 4:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Changing Your Vote Before Election Day
Voting before Election Day means that something could happen to make you change your mind about your vote. For example, a candidate you voted for could drop out, or you could learn new information that changes your mind.
Cancelling your vote is called “spoiling” your ballot. If you want to spoil (cancel) your ballot, you must turn in a written request saying you would like a new ballot mailed to you or that you will vote in person on Election Day. If you mail the request, it must be received by the local clerk by 2:00 p.m. the Saturday before the election. If you bring it to the clerk in person, you must do it by 4:00 p.m. on Monday before the election.
Voting in Person on Election Day
You can find your polling (voting) location on the Michigan Voter Information Center website.
You do not need a photo ID to vote. If you have it, bring it with you. You will be asked for a photo ID when you go to vote. If you do not have a photo ID or do not have it with you, you can sign a simple form, called an affidavit, and vote. The following kinds of photo IDs are accepted at polling places:
- Driver’s license or state ID card (Michigan or other)
- Military ID with photo
- Student ID with photo from high school or accredited institution of higher learning
- Tribal ID with photo
- Any other photo ID issued by the state or federal government
If you do not have a photo ID, you can use an Affidavit of Voter Not in Possession of Picture Identification. Your polling location should have copies of this affidavit available for you to sign on voting day.
The polls are open from 7:00a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. You have the right to vote if you are in line by 8:00 p.m.
Filling Out Your Ballot
You may have already made up your mind about some issues on the ballot. However, you could be surprised by other issues or candidates you see when you look at your ballot.
You can see a sample ballot, for any upcoming election using the What’s on the ballot? page of the Michigan Voter Information Center. Use the Voter Information page if you need to confirm what precinct you live in. You can print this sample ballot, use it to do research on candidates and issues, and mark it up to help you remember your choices when you vote. If you choose to vote in person, you can bring your notes and sample ballot with you.
Michigan ballots will ask you to either darken an oval or fill the space between two arrows to indicate your vote. Be sure to read the instructions to make sure you are marking the ballot correctly. Turn the ballot over and look at the back to make sure that you complete all of your selections.
Bringing References Into Your Polling Place
You can use your smartphone as a reference while voting in person. However, researching candidates and issues can take a long time. You may feel more comfortable if you take the time to make your decisions when you have more time at home. You might not have a strong internet connection at your polling place and may not have full use of your phone while you are trying to vote.
Voting for a Write-In Candidate
Each ballot choice will have blank space available to add a write in candidate. The write-in candidate must have filed a Declaration of Intent to be a write-in candidate. If not, those votes won’t count. There is an exception to this rule if the printed candidate dies or is disqualified on or after the Wednesday before the election.
To vote for a write-in candidate, mark your ballot next to one of the blank spaces in the relevant category. Write the person’s name on the blank line. Your vote may still be counted if you spell the candidate’s name wrong, but it will depend on whether the vote counter thinks that your intent is clear. The best way to make sure your vote is counted is to spell the candidate’s name correctly.
Campaigning at the Polls Is Not Allowed
No one can post, display or distribute any material related to candidates or issues that are on the ballot within 100 feet of a place where voting is happening (a polling place). This includes clothing and buttons. If you wear political clothing, an election inspector may ask you to cover it up. They can also ask you to remove buttons, stickers, or other items that represent a political party, candidate, or issue. You are not allowed to ask for donations or collect signatures on petitions. You can’t hand out any campaign materials, even if they are informational “pro and con” style materials. Political signs, posters, and bumper stickers are not allowed.
These rules apply even if the material only refers indirectly to the election.
What You Can Do if You Have a Problem at Your Voting Location
If you have any problem with voting, you can contact the Michigan Secretary of State at (517) 335-3234. You can also call the non-partisan Election Protection Hotline at (866) OUR-VOTE [(866) 687-8683].