Macomb Daily — Tuesday, February 11, 2020
By Fred Miller Macomb County Clerk
On March 10, 2020, voters in Michigan will have the chance to weigh in on the candidates for President of the United States. No matter if you’re a staunch partisan or a political newbie, all voters can weigh in on the candidates and on some important local issues as well. Presidential Primaries are unlike any other election on our calendar and have some special rules. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions, along with corresponding answers. As always, check out our website — macombgov.org/elections — or call 586-469-5209 for more information.
What is going to be on the March 10, 2020 ballot? The only candidates on the ballot will be Democratic and Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination for President of the United States. Regional and local proposals will also appear on ballots throughout the county including the Macomb County Art Institute Authority, Center Line City, Memphis City, Clinton Township, Macomb Intermediate School District, and Lakeview Public Schools.
What is the difference between an Open Primary and a Closed Primary? Michigan’s Presidential Primary has been designated a “closed” primary, but any Michigan registered voter can participate. Voters in an “open” primary (held in August on even-years) vote a ballot with columns of each qualified party’s candidates and must vote only in the column of their party choice. Voting for candidates in more than a single party’s column in an “open” primary will void the entire partisan ballot. Voters can always “split their tickets” in November elections without penalty.
Voters in “closed” primaries (like the March 2020 election) must indicate the party primary they wish to participate in before being issued a ballot. The ballot given to voters only has candidates of the party that corresponds to the voter’s choice, as well as the non-partisan proposals.
Why do I have to select a party ballot? Michigan Election Law (MCL 168.615c) guides the conduct of the Presidential Primary and requires that voters indicate in writing which political party ballot they wish to vote. This requirement only applies to Presidential Primary elections. Voters will not be required to select a political party ballot type at other types of elections. The written selection made by a voter at the Presidential Primary has no bearing on how a person votes in the State Primary election, or any future elections for that matter.
What if I don’t want to select a party ballot? Voters who don’t wish to participate in either party’s primary election but still wish to vote on the non-partisan proposals may do so by requesting a “Proposal Only” ballot which will contain any proposals for which you are eligible to vote without any candidates.
Will my ballot selection be made public? Yes. By law, a public list must be made available that includes the Presidential Primary ballot type chosen by each voter in the Presidential Primary. This list is subject to the Freedom of Information Act but must be destroyed after 22 months. Only the political party ballot selection will be made public, not which candidate you vote for.
What does an “uncommitted” vote mean? Each party ballot has a vote position for “uncommitted.” If enough voters cast “uncommitted” votes, the party may send delegates to the national nominating convention who are not committed to a specific candidate.
Can I change my vote if the candidate I voted for has dropped out after I return my ballot? You may vote a replacement ballot by submitting a written request to your city or township clerk by 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, 2020 or appear in person at your local clerk’s office prior to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 9, 2020. In this situation, your city or township clerk will void your original ballot and you will be issued a new ballot.
Your local clerk is also required to have office hours the weekend prior to the election. Use the Michigan Voter Information Center (michigan.gov/vote) to find contact and location information for your local clerk.
Fred Miller is the Macomb County Clerk and Register of Deeds.
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