Explaining Michigan’s presidential primary

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GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The presidential race means that voting in Michigan’s primary will be a little different than in other years.

During the presidential primary, whether you vote at your local precinct or by absentee, you have to ask for either a Democratic or Republican ballot. Citizens are not permitted to vote on both. That is unlike other elections, and some people are reluctant to reveal which party they lean toward.

“People in Michigan are not used to the fact that we have to suddenly declare something in order to vote,” Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said.

But asking for that ballot doesn’t mean you will automatically be registered with one of the parties.

“Michigan does not have party registration,” Roebuck said.

Though the information is retained by the Secretary of State and can be accessed through the Freedom of Information Act — perhaps by parties or others interested in targeting their message — it doesn’t mean you are registered as anything other than a voter.

“All we’re simply doing is choosing which ballot,” Roebuck said. “So this doesn’t affect how you vote, how you participate in any other election this year, or any other election for that matter.”

To complicate matters further, if there are any other races or issues up for a vote, voters need another ballot for that.

So what if there is an issue or an election that you want to weigh in on, but you either don’t care or don’t want to say in which party primary you want to participate? There is something called a no party affiliation ballot.

“If you are a voter that doesn’t want to participate in that party process, you don’t want folks to know whether voted a Democrat or Republican ballot, you have the option and obviously have the right,” Roebuck said.

When you fill out your application to vote, either absentee or at your local polling place, you have to choose which ballots you want. Polling locations have workers to help you navigate the process, but Roebuck said that up to 5 percent of returned absentee applications fail to choose the proper ballot.

Michigan’s presidential primary is March 8. The general election is Nov. 8.—–Online: Michigan Secretary of State on electionsMarch primary FAQ (PDF)

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