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Voting 101

In a democratic society, we have the privilege of voting to choose the representatives who will work on the problems important to us. Here are some resources to help you navigate the world of voting.

Common Voting Terms
Absentee Ballot - A way to vote by mail instead of going to a polling place. In Michigan, one of following reasons must apply: (1) If a person is 60 years or older, or (2) unable to vote without assistance, (3) will be out of town during the election, (4) in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, (5) unable to go to the polls due to religion, (6) plan to work as an election inspector in a precinct other than their own.

Ballot - a sheet of paper used to cast a secret vote

Constitutional Amendment - An addition or change to the state constitution, which requires a vote of the people.

Initiative - An issue put on the state ballot by a citizen petition.

Millage - A tax on property.  Local units of government, including school districts, may hold millage elections.

Political Party - an organization made up of people who think alike on various issues that seeks to attain power within a government. Michigan law does not define party membership; this is the responsibility of each political party.

Poll - the place where votes are cast or recorded -- usually used in plural (at the polls).

Precinct - The place where you vote. It is also called a polling place. Your local clerk's office can tell you where your precinct is located. There are a variety of devices in use in Michigan for recording your vote.

Primary - A candidate may appear on the general election ballot by winning a preliminary election called a primary. In Michigan, the state primary is held in August in even-numbered years as are most township primaries. City primaries may be held in odd-numbered years.

Referendum - A vote by citizens that approves or rejects an existing state or local law.

Registration - The process to get on the list of those able to vote on election day. In Michigan you must register 30 days in advance of an election

Elections at All Levels




Officials we elect at the federal level:
            President & Vice President
            United States Senators
            United States Representatives




Officials we elect at the state level:
            Lieutenant Governor
            Secretary of State
            State Attorney General
            State Board of Education
            State Supreme Court and Appeals Court Judges
            The boards of the three largest Universities:  University of Michigan, Michigan                             State University and Wayne State University


In addition to federal and state government, there are several kinds of local governments that we vote for including:
            Cities, Villages, Townships
            School Districts

            Community Colleges

            District Libraries

            Circuit, Probate and District Court Judges

Rgistering to vote
In order to vote in Michigan you must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old by election day and a resident of the city or township in where you register. It is required that you register at least 30 days prior to an election.

You can register by going to your county, city or township clerk's office or you can go to your local Secretary of State office. To find your local clerk, click here.

To confirm your registration and find out where your precinct is, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center.

Download a voter registration form

absentee ballots
An absentee ballot is a way to vote if you are unable to get to your polling place on election day. Your request for an absentee ballot must be in writing and can be submitted to your city or township clerk by 2 p.m. on the Saturday prior to the election.

If any of the following 6 reasons apply, you may be eligible for an absentee ballot:

  • 60 years old or older
  • Unable to vote without assistance
  • Will be out of town during election
  • In jail awaiting arraignment or trial
  • Unable to go to polls due to religion
  • Plan to work as an election inspector in a precinct other than your home precinct

Please Note: If you register to vote by mail, you are required to vote in person the first time. After that, you will be permitted to vote absentee if any of the above reasons apply.

  • To download an absentee ballot application, click here.
  • The signed application must be sent to your local clerk; to find your local clerk, click here.
  • For more information about voting by absentee ballot, please visit here.