Voter pitfall to avoid: Missing out on the election because you’re not registered. Not having the proper identification or mail delays can cause problems when registering to vote or returning your ballot. Transportation issues or work obligations can prevent you from reaching the polls on voting day. Avoid these pitfalls by planning where and when you’ll vote.
This year, Michigan’s primary is Tuesday, Aug. 2. It is the final day to cast your vote, but you can also vote ahead of time. Before you think about who you’ll vote for, make sure you have the basics in check: know how to register to vote, how to receive and return your ballot on time and to the right place.
First, keep the Michigan Voter Information Center handy. You can use the site to check your registration status; find your clerk’s office, satellite voting locations and your polling place; see your ballot; register to vote; and request an absentee ballot.
Register and vote for the first time in Michigan
If you have never voted in Michigan before, you will have to register. Through July 18, you can do that online or by mail.
After July 18, you must register in person at your clerk’s office. You can register and then immediately vote any day the office is open, until 8 p.m. on Election Day – though you can save yourself anxiety, and possibly time, by registering sooner! In Detroit, you can also register and vote at 13 satellite voting centers, which open July 11 and maintain regular hours through August 1. See locations, hours and information here.
You are eligible to register and vote in Michigan if you are:
- a U.S. citizen,
- you have been a resident of a Michigan city or township for at least 30 days by Aug. 2,
- you will be 18 years old by Aug. 2 and
- you are not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison.
Identification you’ll need when you register and go vote
When you register, you must provide proof of residency, which is a document with your name and current address. Paper or electronic documents are acceptable as are pictures of your documents or ID on your phone. Accepted proof of residency documents include:
- a Michigan driver’s license or state ID card,
- a utility bill, a bank statement,
- a paycheck,
- a government check or
- any other government document.
You will get a receipt of your voter registration. If you register after July 18 and don’t vote when you register, you must bring that receipt with you when you go to vote.
You can register to vote without a photo ID or proof of citizenship. You will be asked for a photo ID if you register in person, but if you don’t have one, you are allowed to register without it by signing a form. (You will still need another proof of residency as listed above.)
If you are voting at the polls or a satellite voting center and have a photo ID or your voter identification card, bring them with you. You’ll be asked to show a photo ID, but are not required to have one. If you don’t, you must sign an affidavit that will allow you to vote.
If it’s your first time voting in Michigan and you registered through the mail or a voter registration drive, you may need to show additional documentation when you go to vote at the polls. You can bring paper or electronic documents, either a photo ID with your name and picture (regardless of the address or with no address) or an official document with your name and address, including:
- driver’s license or personal ID card from any state with name and photo,
- high school or college ID with name and photo,
- passport, military or government-issued photo ID with name and photo,
- tribal ID with name and photo,
- current utility bill with name and address,
- bank statement with name and address,
- paycheck stub or any other government document with name and address
Vote at the polls on Election Day
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you are in line at 8 p.m., you are allowed to vote. Find your polling place here.
Michigan election law allows any voter to cast an absentee ballot without giving a reason. Voting absentee may be a good option for voters who have difficulties getting to the polls on Election Day for transportation, work, health or other reasons.
You may also see absentee voting referred to as “voting at home,” “early voting” or “vote by mail.” These terms are sometimes used interchangeably in Michigan.
Request and return absentee ballots by mail
You can submit an online request to have an absentee ballot mailed to you or submit a written request to your clerk’s office, until July 29, as long as the request is received by 5 p.m. But both the Secretary of State’s office and voting rights advocates recommend making your request as soon as possible to ensure your ballot is returned in time. July 19 is their last recommended day to return your absentee ballot by mail, though again earlier is better. After that cutoff date, you still have several options to vote without going to the polls.
Other ways to vote before Election Day
At any time up until 4 p.m. Aug. 1 (the day before Election Day), you can request an absentee ballot in person and then fill it out in the same visit, at your clerk’s office or at a satellite voting location.
If you fill out a ballot at home, you can also return it to a ballot drop box if your city uses them. In Detroit, all satellite voting centers include 24/7 drop boxes. There are seven additional drop boxes around the city; find locations here. Your ballot must be in a drop box or received by your clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
If you have an issue with your absentee ballot — it never arrives or comes too late, you make a mistake, you lose it, or something else — you can still vote! Before 4 p.m. Aug. 1, you can request to “spoil” your ballot with your clerk’s office and receive a new ballot to fill out while you’re there. You can also spoil an absentee ballot by signing an affidavit at your normal polling place on Election Day. If you received an absentee ballot that you can’t use, keep it and bring it with you to spoil it.
Other things to keep in mind
- College and university students can register to vote at their home or school address.
- If you are in pre-trial detention, if you were previously incarcerated but are no longer serving time and if you are on probation or parole, you are allowed to vote. Learn more about efforts to ensure voting access for Michiganders in pretrial detention, are about to be released from prison or are otherwise impacted by the justice system from the Voting Access for All Coalition.
- You have the right to an accessible polling place and voting machine. You can receive accommodations like curbside voting if your polling place is not accessible.
- The Secretary of State office makes some voting information available in multiple languages. In certain cities, you have the right to receive a ballot at the polls or absentee in other languages – Arabic-language ballots will be made available in Hamtramck and Dearborn for the first time this year. Bengali-language ballots are available in Hamtramck. Spanish-language ballots are available in Clyde Township, Covert Township and the City of Fennville. If there aren’t ballots available in the language you read, you can receive assistance from an individual of your choosing who is not an agent of your employer or union.
See more details about your rights and Michigan voting requirements in this guide from michiganvoting.org. You can also get answers to more questions about issues that come up with your absentee ballot or while voting at the polls with these resources from Detour Detroit.
If you have a problem voting, you can get help by calling 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), a national nonpartisan voter helpline administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. You can also access the hotline in languages other than English:
- Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) — Administered by NALEO Educational Fund
- Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) — Administered by Arab American Institute (AAI)
- Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Urdu, Vietnamese or English: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) — Administered by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
Read the rest of the Detroit Documenters Voters Guide and look up any unfamiliar terms in our vote with confidence glossary. Still have questions about voting in Detroit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.