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- Get registered. Most people do this when they register for their driver’s license, but it is good to be certain of your registration status, especially as Michigan is not one of the states that has an election day registration program. Not sure if you’re registered? Check on canivote.org. Just type in your name and address and it will tell you if and where you are registered. If you aren’t registered, you can either register at your hometown Secretary of State or you can send in a mail-in registration form, available at the Secretary of State’s website. Register soon; deadlines are approaching quickly.
- Know who you are and where you are. This sounds basic but when registering or voting, it’s very important that you use your full given name. Equally important is voting in the township where you are registered, generally your home city or township. If you think you won’t get home on voting day, keep reading to learn about absentee ballots.
- Bring the goods. Michigan requires picture identification at the polls so bring along your driver’s license of identification card. However, if something goes wrong and you forget to bring identification, don’t panic. You can still vote. The poll workers will ask you to sign a brief affidavit stating that you’re not in possession of picture identification and your vote will still be counted.
- Dress smart. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear jeans to vote. However, Michigan prohibits displaying election-related merchandise within 100 feet of the entrance to the polls. This includes “Obama Rocks” buttons and “I heart Romney” shirts. So wear your party duds leading up to the event but not at the polls, otherwise you’ll be asked to cover or remove the messaged material, and if that happens to be a shirt, things could get awkward.
- If you can’t make it: Absentee ballots are an option if you expect to be away from your registered voting township during election day. In order to obtain an absentee ballot you must download an absentee ballot application and send it in to your local clerk. For Michigan residents, the request form can be found at Michigan.gov along with a search engine to find the location of your nearest clerk. Your request must be received by the clerk no later than 2 p.m. the Saturday before election day.
- Know the process. When you arrive to vote, you will get in line and verify your identity. Then you will get your ballot. After this, depending on the system your polls use, a couple of different things will happen.
- If it’s an electronic scan program such as AutoMARK, you’ll feed your ballot into the device and it will appear on the screen. You can then touch which candidates you wish to vote for, or write in a candidate on the touch screen. Then you’ll hit the “mark ballot” option, the ballot will come back out and you will feed the ballot into a scanner to cast your vote.
- If the polls use a paper option like Accu-vote OS or Optech Eagle, then you will take your ballot from the attendant, choose candidates by completely filling in the bubbles and once you are done and have re-checked your votes for accuracy, you will feed the completed ballot into the scanner.
If you have any more questions or live in a different state, Gizmodo.com has a great article called “How to Vote: A Guide to Every Voting Machine in America.” This article gives details about all the systems used in each state and how they function.
- Remember everyone is human. If you’re nervous about the process, feel free to tell an attendant that it is your first time voting. Polls are often run by older generations who are proud of first-time voters and they will usually be more than happy to help you along. Also, if you incorrectly mark a paper ballot, simply ask for another.
Bask in your patriotism. Once you’ve fed your ballot into the scanner, you have officially voted! The attendant will usually give you a voting receipt and you can leave knowing that you have fulfilled your civic duty.