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Presidential Primary Instructions & Frequently Asked Questions

Lawrence Kestenbaum and the Washtenaw County Clerk's office presents this document for citizens in an attempt to clarify the rules governing the January 15th presidential primary. Our offices can be contacted for additional information by calling 734-222-6730 or by visiting

 January 15th will be administered as a closed primary. This means that prior to receiving a ballot each voter must declare the party primary they would like to vote in. Here is how it will work;

 1.  In order to vote in the January 15th election you must be a registered voter in the state of Michigan on or before December 17, 2007.

 2.  Upon entering the precinct you will complete your application to vote.

 3.  For this election the application to vote will have a section for party preference. You are required to fill in the oval in to receive either the Republican or Democratic ballot.

 Key points:

  • You do not need to be a member of a party to vote in this election.
  • This is a Republican and Democratic primary so you must select either Republican or Democratic.
  • By making this selection you are not joining a party. You are only declaring which primary you would like to vote in for this election.
  • There is not a third option.
  • If you do not make a selection you will not be given a ballot.
  • You cannot request both ballots.
  • If you would like to see both ballots prior to making a selection there are Sample ballots at each precinct.

4.  You will then be asked to show identification. Election inspectors will be verifying your name and physical identity.

 Key points:

  • The new photo identification law went into effect in November of 2007.
  • All voters in Michigan are now required to show identification.
  • Voters who do not bring picture identification to the polls or do not possess picture identification may still vote after signing an affidavit.
  • The following forms of identification are acceptable: driver's license or personal identification card issued by Michigan or another state, federal or state government-issued photo identification, U.S. passport, military identification card with photo, student identification with photo from a high school or an accredited institution of higher education, or a tribal identification card with photo

 5.  Your name will then be verified as a registered voter within that precinct and you will be recorded as either voting in the Republican or Democratic primary based upon your selection.

 Key points:

  • This list will be given to the Republican and Democratic party. It is not a public list and therefore is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
  • If you refuse to have your party selection recorded you will not be given a ballot.

 6.  You will then be handed either the Republican or Democratic ballot depending on your selection. 

 7.  At this point you will be directed to the voting booth where you will make your selection within that particular partys primary.

 Key points:

  • Here you will be given instructions on how to properly mark the ballot.
  • You may only vote for one candidate
  • There is a write-in section on the ballot. However, there are no valid write-in candidates. 
  • If you write-in the name of a particular candidate your ballot will be accepted by the machine, but the candidates name you wrote in will not be counted.
  • Do not cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name is already printed on the ballot.
  • There is an uncommitted selection on the ballot. By voting uncommitted you are indicating that you have chosen to vote in a particular partys primary, however you do not wish to vote for one of the listed candidates.
  • You may also vote a blank ballot. The machine will reject the ballot letting you know that it is blank, but upon request the inspector will accept the ballot.

 8.  You will then insert your ballot into the voting machine where your vote will be counted.

Additional Questions:

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding Michigans Jan. 15 primary as well as the answers provided by the State of Michigan's Bureau of Elections.

Why are certain Democratic candidates not listed on the Democratic Party presidential primary ballot?

All candidates had the opportunity to withdraw from the ballot by filing an affidavit with the Secretary of State.  Four candidates voluntarily filed withdrawal affidavits: Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bill Richardson.  It was their choice to withdraw.

Can I write in a candidates name on the ballot?

Your vote will not count if you do so.  Anyone who wanted to run as a write-in candidate was required to file a Declaration of Intent form by January 4.  No candidates filed the form for the Jan. 15 primary.

If I voted an absent voter ballot and attempted to cast a write-in vote, can I get a replacement ballot?

Yes.  To obtain a replacement ballot, you must contact your city or township clerk before January 15, 2008.  The clerk will then arrange to mail the replacement ballot to you or have you pick it up.

What does an uncommitted vote mean?

If enough voters cast uncommitted votes, the party will send delegates to the national nominating convention who are not committed to a specific candidate.

Why do I have to select a Democratic Party ballot or a Republican Party ballot?

The Michigan State Legislature enacted the ballot selection process that requires voters to state which party ballot they wish to receive.  The law accommodates the national Democratic Party rules which do not recognize the results of a states primary unless it has been conducted as a closed primary.  The ballot selection process qualifies Michigans primary as a closed primary.  The law was supported by both the Republican Party and Democratic Party.

What is the difference between an open primary and a closed primary?

Voters in open primaries are given a ballot containing a column for every party qualified to participate.  Voters then decide which party primary they wish to participate in while in the privacy of the voting station.
Voters in closed primaries must state the party primary that they wish to participate in before being issued a ballot.  The ballot given to voters only shows the party that corresponds with their choice.

Will Michigans closed presidential primary procedures impact the August 5 primary in any way?

No.  The August 5 primary is an open primary.  You will not be asked to select a party ballot before voting.  You will be issued a ballot containing both political parties and their candidates.  You will select one of the parties in the privacy of the voting station.

Is split ticket voting ever allowed?

Yes, but only during general elections held to fill elective positions.  It is not allowed in partisan primaries because voters cannot participate in more than a single partys nominating process.

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