Voting Rights Toolkit
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right of everyone to participate in the government of their country, to express their will through free and fair elections and to have equal access to public services.
Know your rights! This voting toolkit will help you exercise your right to vote. Packed with useful information and resources, this guide will help you maneuver the registration and voting process so that you feel prepared on Election Day.
Registering to Vote
Registering to vote takes an average of two minutes. There are three ways to register to vote: 1) online, 2) by mail, and 3) in-person.
1) Registering online is arguably the easiest way to register. If you have a driver’s license or state issued ID, you can quickly register online.
In Michigan you can register if you do not have an ID. However, you will not be able to register online and instead will need to register by mail or in person.
Register By Mail
2) To register by mail you will need to print out an application and mail or drop it off at your city/township clerk. You may access the Michigan Voter Registration Application here.
To comply with the identification requirement you must submit one of the following: a Michigan-issued driver’s license number, Michigan-issued state ID card number, the last four digits of your social security number, a copy of a current and valid photo identification (such as a driver’s license of state ID card from ANY state), a copy of a paycheck stub, utility bill, bank statement, or other government document that lists your name and address.
Register in Person
3) To register in person you will need to go to your local clerk’s office. There you are required to provide proof of residency.
To meet the residency requirement you must bring one of the following: a Michigan driver’s license, a state ID card, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document with your name and current address.
To learn more about voting in your individual state, you should use your state’s voting website which can be found using this link. These websites should have downloadable voter registration forms along with your clerk locations and other voting information.
Michigan’s Voter Information Center is an example of one of these voting websites and offers a lot of valuable information. Michigan also has a step-by-step guide registering to vote which details the various requirements.
Vote 411 is a great resource produced by the League of Women Voters – a nonpartisan, grassroots organization working to protect and expand voting rights. It can help you register to vote, find out what is on your ballot and learn more about voting in your state.
Albion College’s webpage Voting at Albion College is another amazing resource, especially for college students. It provides a link to Albion’s TurboVote platform which assists you with all your voting needs, offers an election timeline, and answers voter FAQ’s.
In Michigan you can register to vote up until 8pm on Election Day. However, it is best to register as soon as possible, and the Michigan Director of Elections recommends registering at least 15 days in advance. Within 14 days of Election Day, you must register in person with your city or township clerk.
Before You Vote
Before you vote it is important to do some research about the candidates and issues on the ballot. This is another instance where the Vote 411 resource is valuable. There you can view a sample ballot and read statements submitted by candidates running for office. You can use this resource to preview what is on your ballot so you are prepared when it’s time to vote. It also provides independent, nonpartisan information to help inform your choices.
You should learn where your polling location is as well. You may go to vote.org to find your polling place. You can also find polling information on your state’s voting website.
Be aware of restrictions on political activities near polling places. Most states have laws regarding electioneering and electioneering apparel near polling locations. In Michigan, you not try to influence voters or display political apparel within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place. To learn more about this law as well as prohibitions in other states you may go to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
There are three main ways to vote: 1) in-person on Election Day; 2) in-person early, and 3) absentee voting.
In Michigan, all three of these options are available with limited restrictions. To learn more about voting options in other states, you may look at this page of the U.S. Vote Foundation.
In-person on Election Day
1) In-person on Election Day is the most common way to vote. In Michigan, polls are open from 7am to 8pm local time. You have the right to vote if you are in line before the time the polls close. Registered voters must vote at their polling location on Election Day. Michigan has same day voter registration. You may register to vote on election day at your clerk’s location and then vote from there.
When you arrive at your polling location you will need to check in. In Michigan, you will be asked to show a photo ID, but you are not required to show ID in order to vote. If you do not have an ID with you, you will be asked to sign a form called an affidavit before you vote. This explains that you do not have an ID in your possession but affirms your identity and registered voter status under oath. Your ballot will be included with all others and counted on Election Day. If you have a question, ask an election inspector for help. Election workers are trained and offer nonpartisan voter assistance.
For more information on what to expect on Election Day and what forms of ID are accepted in Michigan, see this page of the Michigan Voter Information Center. For more information about ID requirements in other states, please visit that state’s voting website and/or view this national site on Voter ID Laws.
2) In-person early is another way to vote. In Michigan, you do not need a reason to vote early, and you may vote early in person starting 40 days before the election. To vote early, all you have to do is go to your local election clerk’s office and complete an application for absentee ballot at the counter. You will then be given an absentee ballot to complete on-site.
3) Absentee voting is the third main way to vote in Michigan. In Michigan you do not need to give a reason for voting absentee. You can vote by absentee ballot through the mail, without leaving your home. You can also go to your city or township clerk’s office or drop box to return your absentee ballot, which is recommended if you are returning a ballot within two weeks of Election Day. For more information on absentee voting in Michigan, including how to receive an absentee ballot, please visit this page of the Michigan Voter Information Center.
No matter which voting method you choose, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Instructions can be found on the security sleeve as well as the actual ballot. There may also be instructions on and inside your ballot envelope when voting by mail or absentee. Mistakes may result in your ballot not being counted. However, if you realize a mistake was made, you can contact your local clerk to spoil your original ballot and receive a replacement ballot.
Kara Anderson is a political science major and English minor at Albion College. She is a member of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service and Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program. Kara is a researcher for the Albion Human Rights Lab.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of Albion College.