How to vote in the upcoming Michigan primary election on Aug. 2

Christian Peck-Dimit
The Detroit News

Michigan voters have a chance to narrow the field of candidates running for governor, Congress, the state Legislature and county-level races in the upcoming statewide primary election on Aug. 2. 

Like all primaries, the purpose of the election is to determine which candidate will represent each political party in the upcoming general election. The statewide general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The only race that will be voted on statewide in this year’s primary will be the gubernatorial race, where five remaining Republican candidates are vying to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is running unopposed in the primary.

Voting booths at the Election Center at the Sterling Heights Community Center in Sterling Heights, Mich. on Oct. 27, 2021. Residents can apply for and pick up their absentee ballots and even fill them out on the spot and drop them in the box.

Michigan’s primary is what’s known as an open primary, meaning that you can vote in any party’s primary election, regardless of which political party you identify with. Unlike other states, Michigan doesn't have political party registration.

That being said, voters can only legally vote for one party's candidates.

For example, if a voter casts a vote for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the Democratic primary and one of the Republicans running governor on the GOP side of the same ballot, their vote won't be counted.

Here's a quick guide to participating in the Aug. 2 primary:

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Are you eligible to vote?

Before you get registered, you must make sure you are eligible to vote in this year’s primary.

You must be:

► A resident of Michigan in your city or township for at least 30 days prior to election day

► A U.S. citizen

► Not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison

► At least 18 years old by election day

How to register

Since it's within 14 days of the primary election, you must register in person with your city or township clerk, and must bring with you a document verifying your residency. Such documents include a driver’s license, a state-issued ID, a government, college or university document, or a utility bill, so long as they include your current home address.

Registration can be done only at the clerk’s office in the city or township in which you reside. They are open for registration during any normal business hours leading up to election day, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 2.

If you are unsure where your clerk's office is, a quick search on the Department of State's website will give you that as well as any information on your voting status.

You are able to both register and vote in the same visit, meaning you can wait to do so until election day.

Who's on the ballot?

If you want to study up on the candidates or local ballot issues, the Secretary of State's office has sample ballots on its website for every voter in Michigan.

But you have to know which precinct you're registered to vote in. That can be found on your voter registration card. Precinct numbers can be found on the state's voter search website, either by name, date of birth and ZIP code or by driver's license number. Go to mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter/Index.

Absentee Voting

If you wish to vote via an absentee ballot, you can both request and submit one on the same trip to the clerk’s office. 

Since the primary is less than two weeks away, local clerks encourage voters to drop off their absentee ballots at their offices to reduce the risk of a ballot getting lost in the mail. Many municipalities have secured drop boxes for delivering absentee ballots in person.

Nikki Schueller inserts her absentee voter ballot into a drop box in Troy.

“Drop boxes continue to be among the safe options that voters have to return their ballot securely this year, in addition to hand-delivering their ballot to their clerk’s office, voting early at their clerk’s office, or voting at their polling place on Election Day,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement.

How to change your vote

If you have already submitted an absentee ballot and wish to — for whatever reason — change your vote, you can make a written request to your city or township clerk to spoil your ballot. However, this must be done prior to Election Day.

The written request must include both the voter’s signature and whether they would like a new absentee ballot mailed to them or if they will pick it up in person at the clerk’s office.

“This request must be received by 5 p.m. the Friday before the election if received by mail,” the Department of State’s website says. “An absentee ballot that has been returned to the clerk may be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 10 a.m. the Monday prior to the election. An absentee ballot that has not been returned to the clerk may be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 4 p.m. the Monday prior to the election.”

Additionally, if you have not yet returned your absentee ballot and now wish to vote at the polls, you can do so by surrendering your absentee ballot or signing a statement saying that the ballot was lost or destroyed.

Going to the polls

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 2 for in-person voting.

For more information, visit the Secretary of State's online Michigan Voter Center at mvic.sos.state.mi.us.