Student Voting Guide | Michigan

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Michigan. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state in which you attend school. If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here.

While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

The Michigan voter registration application is available here. Print this form, fill it out, and mail or deliver it to your local county clerk, the Secretary of State, or a designated voter registration agency at least 30 days before Election Day.[1] If this date falls on a weekend or a holiday, then the deadline extends to the next business day.[2] Mail-in registration forms must be postmarked by this date.[3]

You can register to vote if you are a citizen of the United States, have been a resident of the state and your township, city or county for at least 30 days immediately preceding the election, and will be 18 by the next primary or general election.[4] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.

Be aware that if you are a first-time Michigan voter who registers to vote by mail or through a voter registration drive, you cannot vote absentee in your first election—you must vote in person on Election Day.[5] However, if you register in person at one of the registration locations listed above, you will be able to vote absentee in your first election.[6]

Finally, if you have registered but are not on the registration list at the polls on Election Day, you can vote a provisional ballot.[7]

Residency

At School. Michigan law defines your voting residency as the place where you keep your belongings and habitually sleep and lodge.[8] Students can establish voting residency in Michigan if they have a present intent to remain at their Michigan school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.

At Home. Students who lived in Michigan prior to attending school and who wish to establish or keep their voting residency at their parents’ address should have no problem doing so, unless they have already registered to vote in another state (see instructions under the “Absentee Voting” section below).[9] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established voting residency in another state and are moving back to Michigan with the intent to reside there, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Effect on Driver’s Licenses. If you have a Michigan driver’s license, the address on it must match your voting address.[10] Registering to vote with an address different than that on your driver’s license will automatically generate an “update sticker,” which will be mailed to you to place on your driver’s license.[11] The converse is also true; if your driver’s license address differs from your voting address, your voter registration will be updated.[12] Note that you can register to vote without a Michigan driver’s license.

Challenges to Residency. Local county clerks have a duty to initially reject your registration if they believe you are not a true resident, but they must notify you of this decision by mail.[13] You then have the opportunity to challenge the decision in court. Alternately, the clerk can simply mark your registration “challenged,” and when you are challenged at the polls, you may confirm your residency at that time.[14]

Your eligibility to vote can only be challenged by another voter through a written affidavit to the clerk stating the grounds for the challenge.[15] If such a challenge is made, the clerk must immediately send you a notice of the challenge, including the grounds, by registered or certified mail.[16] In such a case, you have 30 days from the time the notice is mailed to appear before the clerk to defend your eligibility or to submit a written affidavit setting forth your qualifications and answering the grounds of the challenge.[17] If you do not respond or the clerk concludes you are not eligible, your registration will be cancelled.[18]

At the polls, your right to vote on the basis of residency can only be challenged by an election inspector.[19] Partisan challengers and other voters can only challenge your eligibility to vote on the basis that you are not a registered voter or that you have already requested an absentee ballot.[20] If you are challenged at the polls, you will have the opportunity to answer questions and prove your eligibility to vote, after which the election inspector will either grant or deny your ballot.[21]

Identification

Every Michigan voter will be asked to show photo identification (“ID”) at the polls.[22] The following types of photo ID are accepted: 1) a Michigan driver’s license or state-issued ID card; 2) an out-of-state driver’s license; 3) any other federal or state government-issued photo ID card; 4) a U.S. passport; 5) a military ID card; 6) a student ID card (from a high school or an accredited college); and 7) a tribal ID card.[23] If you do not have any acceptable form of photo ID, you can sign an affidavit and still cast a regular ballot.[24]

Voters who register by mail, who will be voting for the first time in any election in Michigan, and who either failed to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their registration application or for whom the state was not able to match that data, are required to satisfy certain ID requirements even if they would otherwise have been able to vote with an affidavit. If such voters do not have current and valid photo ID, they can provide a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows their name and address, either at the polls or by sending a copy with their registration.[25]

Absentee Voting

Voters who expect to be absent from the city or town where they are registered to vote during polling hours are entitled to vote absentee, but as stated above in the “Registration” section, first-time voters who registered by mail must vote in person.[26] If you are qualified to vote absentee (by being absent from the city or town) and would like to do so the first time you vote in Michigan, you must register in person at a government office.[27] If you registered by mail, you may only vote absentee as a first-time voter if you qualify as an overseas or uniformed services voter, have a disability, or are over the age of 60.[28]

The Michigan absentee ballot application is available here. Your absentee ballot request has to be received by your city or township clerk by 2:00 p.m. on the Saturday before Election Day.[29] Your actual absentee ballot must be received by your city or township clerk by the time the polls close on Election Day.[30]

Last updated August 15, 2014


[1] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 168.497(1), 168.509v.

[2] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 168.497(1).

[3] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.509x(b).

[4] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.492.

[5] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.509t(2).

[6] Michigan Sec’y of State, Registering to Vote: A Step by Step Guide, http://www.mi.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1633_8716_8726_47669-175880--,00.html.

[7] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann § 168.523a; Picture Identification in the Polls Questions and Answers Michigan  Sec’y of State, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/090507_Voter_Id_QA5_209294_7.pdf.

[8] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.11(1).

[9] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.11(2).

[10] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 168.509o(3), 168.509r(2)); see also, id. at § 257.307(1)(c).

[11] Frequently Asked Questions, Elections and Voting: I Moved and Need to Update My Voter Registration. Michigan Sec’y of State, http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-29836-88648--F,00.html.

[12] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 257.307(1)(c)

[13] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 168.500d, 168.519.

[14] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.521.

[15] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.512.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.727.

[20] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 168.727, 168.733(1)(c).

[21] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.729.

[22] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.523(1).

[23] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.523(1); see also Michigan Dept. of State, Frequently Asked Questions: Do I need to show identification in order to vote?, http://michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-29836-202520--F,00.html.   

[24] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.523(2).

[25] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.509t.; 42 U.S.C. §§ 15483(b)(2)(A) and (b)(3)(A).

[26] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.509t(2).

[27] Michigan Sec’y of State, Registering to Vote: A Step by Step Guide, http://www.mi.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1633_8716_8726_47669-175880--,00.html..

[28] Id.

[29] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.759(1).

[30] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.764a.