What to know before heading to the polls for Michigan's Aug. 2 primary election

Although recent initiatives have made it easier than ever to vote with an absentee ballot in the state of Michigan, many people are expected to return to the polls in person for the state’s 2022 primary election held Aug. 2.

The Free Press has compiled answers to common questions to help Michigan voters weigh in on key gubernatorial, congressional and state legislative primaries on the ballot.

Who can vote in Michigan's elections? Can people who have spent time in prison or jail vote?

Any U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old and not serving a prison sentence can vote. Formerly incarcerated people, as well as those awaiting arraignment or trial, are able to vote in Michigan. Eligible voters must live in Michigan when they register to vote and must have lived in their city or township where they're registering to vote for at least 30 days by Election Day.

How do I look up my voter registration status in Michigan?

If you're unsure whether you're among the more than 8 million registered Michigan voters, you can check by calling your local clerk's office or heading to the Michigan Voter Information Center website at mvic.sos.state.mi.us and click "Your voter information" at the top of the page.

More: Michigan primary election 2022: Voter guide for Macomb, Oakland, Wayne counties

How do I register to vote in Michigan?

Because the election is Tuesday, if you want to register to vote in the primary, you will have to do it in person at your local clerk's office. There, you can register to vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Make sure to bring proof of residency (such as a Michigan driver’s license or state ID; current utility bill; bank statement; paycheck or government check; or another government document.) The document or a digital copy of it must include your name and current address.

You will be asked to fill out an application that verifies your eligibility and identity. You will then submit your application to your local clerk and they will vet and process it.

How can I request an absentee ballot in Michigan?

You can request an absentee ballot online any time before 5 p.m. the Friday before Election Day or in-person at the clerk’s office any time before 4 p.m. the day before the election. The clerk's satellite offices can also help you with your absentee ballot needs. Because the election is less than two weeks away, it is not recommended that you request or return your absentee ballot by mail.

Make sure that you have your ballot returned to your local clerk’s office, satellite office, or ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

More: Your guide to absentee voting in Michigan's August primary election 2022

I am planning to vote in person. How do I find out where my polling location is?

Your precinct and polling place may have changed. For example, Detroit has 53 fewer precincts than it did in 2020 because of population losses recorded in the 2020 census. We recommend that you double or even triple-check your polling location before you head out to vote so you do not show up at the wrong place.

You can find your polling place and more information by going to mvic.sos.state.mi.us and clicking "Where is my polling place?"

When can I vote in person?

In Michigan, every polling place is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. It's important to remember that as long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you are still allowed to vote.

Does Michigan require voters to show photo ID before voting in person?

Voters in Michigan are asked to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballot in person. The following forms of photo ID are acceptable:

  • Michigan driver's license or state ID

  • Current driver's license or personal identification card issued by another state

  • Current federal or state government-issued photo identification

  • Current U.S. passport

  • Current military identification card with photo

  • Current student identification with photo from a high school or accredited institution of higher learning

  • Current tribal identification care with photo

But if you forget a photo ID or don't have one, you can sign an affidavit confirming your identity and vote normally.

Most voters show an ID before casting a ballot. In November 2020, only 0.5% of voters cast their ballots without presenting a photo ID, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Do I need my voter registration card in order to vote?

No, you do not need your voter registration card in order to cast your ballot. This is not a "Voter ID" and is simply for your reference. It includes information such as your polling location and which districts you live in. Each polling place will have a list of all registered voters in the precinct, and as long as you are at the correct polling location, you should be on the list.

What will be on the Michigan primary ballot?

There will be a lot on the ballot on Tuesday. Republican voters will choose their party's gubernatorial nominee to face off against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Voters will also choose their party's nominees for congressional, state House and state Senate races. There might even be elections for county executive, county commission, local judgeships, precinct delegates, and local millage rates, on your primary ballot.

You will not get to vote for your party's pick for secretary of state or attorney general. Nominees for these offices are chosen at the state parties' conventions held later in August.

In order to see a sample ballot, go to mvic.sos.state.mi.us and click "Your voter information." Enter your first name, last name, birth month, birth year and ZIP code. On the next page click "View" under "Ballot preview."

2022 Michigan primary voter guide

Enter your address for information on which races and candidates will be on your ballot for the Michigan primary election on Aug. 2.

Can I vote in different parties' primary races?

You can vote in whichever party's primary you choose, but you cannot "split your ticket." Each party will get a column on the ballot and you must stay within that party's column. In other words, voters cannot weigh in on the GOP gubernatorial primary and also vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress.

Do I have to vote the entire ballot?

No, you do not need to vote in every race on the ballot. You can choose which races you would like to weigh in on and skip those you don’t.

Will anyone know how I voted?

Only the people you tell will know how you voted. Every voter in the United States has the right to a secret ballot and is never obligated to share their political preferences with anyone.

How should I handle people campaigning outside my polling location?

Michigan law requires that those campaigning stay at least 100 feet away from the entrance of a polling location. Any literature or campaign materials must be concealed when you enter your polling place and can be referred to once you enter the voting booth. But take care not to leave them behind.

Can I wear election-related clothing to the polls?

The state of Michigan has a decades-long tradition of making sure that polling places are free of political messaging. Just as with campaign literature, election clothing (including pins, buttons, and stickers) must be concealed within 100 feet of the entrance to your polling place.

Can I take my kids to the polls?

Yes! Children under the age of 18 are allowed to accompany voters into the voting booth. Remind them to be on their best behavior, and maybe they will get a sticker!

Can I take a selfie with my ballot?

You are allowed to photograph a completely voted ballot that is lying flat on the desk in the voting booth. Sorry, no ballot selfies in Michigan!

Photographing a completely voted ballot is the only reason for which a cellphone should be used in the voting booth. You are allowed to send this picture, but only once you are at least 100 feet from the entrance of the polling place. We have heard that some polling places may even have an "I voted" selfie station, but make sure that your ballot is not in the picture with you.

I have an absentee ballot but would like to vote in person instead. Can I still go to the polls?

The short answer is yes. The long answer depends on what you have done with the ballot so far.

  • If the ballot has not been filled out nor returned to the clerk, you can go to your polling place and either surrender the ballot or submit a written and signed statement saying the ballot was lost or destroyed and proceed to vote in person.

  • If the ballot has been filled out but not yet returned to the clerk, it can be spoiled with a written and signed request in person at your clerk’s office any time before 4 p.m. the Monday before the election.

  • If the ballot has been filled out and returned to the clerk, it can be spoiled with a written and signed request any time before 10 a.m. on the Monday before the election.

An emergency has come up and I can't make it to the polls on Election Day. Can I still vote?

Yes, you can still vote by using an emergency absent voter ballot. Your request must be submitted to your local clerk before 4 p.m. on Election Day, and you must explain how the emergency made it impossible for you to apply for a regular absent voter ballot.

If a situation like this transpires, contact your local clerk for more information.

Are Michigan's elections secure?

The state of Michigan has invested in upgraded voting technology, an improved Qualified Voter File system, risk-limiting post-election audits and a full-time election security specialist.

Trained election workers verify voters' identity, counting machines are tested ahead of time to make sure that they accurately tabulate the votes and bipartisan canvassing boards review and correct results before certifying them.

While we've tried to answer as many of the most common queries as possible, we know that you may still have some lingering questions.

The best way to find the answer to anything we did not cover is to contact your local clerk's office. Their information can be found by going to mvic.sos.state.mi.us and clicking "Where are my clerk's offices?" The Secretary of State's website at michigan.gov/sos has a "Frequently Asked Questions" page for your other election questions.

From all of us here at the Free Press, happy voting!

Michael Woch is a Detroit Free Press summer apprentice.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Voting in-person in Michigan's Aug. primary? What to know