Be Informed about Your Rights and Resources before going to the Polls on November 8
Monday, October 31, 2016
By Chris Swope
 
As we approach the Tuesday, November 8 Presidential Election, I wanted pass along information to assist you to make the voting process as easy as possible as allowed by law, so that your voice can be heard in our democracy.
 
Before going to the polls, visit Lansingmi.gov/clerk or call 517-483- 4133 if you have questions. You will discover links to:
Voter Registration Verification & Polling Location (with a map!)
Preview YOUR Personal Sample Ballot
Absentee Ballot Request Forms 
Links to Nonpartisan Voting Resources 
Poll Watchers and Poll Challengers Summary of what they are allowed and not allowed to do.
 
I recommend taking a few minutes to review the ballot and make sure you know where you vote on November 8. It can save you time, and help you make informed choices.  Many people often incorrectly believe that they are unable to vote.  Citizens who have served their time in jail or people who have moved within the City are STILL able to vote.  Don’t assume that you are unable to vote. Visit lansingmi.gov/clerk and click the “Am I Registered to Vote?” link or call my office to see if you are registered and where to vote at.  Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.  Anyone in line at 8 p.m. has the right to stay in line and vote before the precinct can close.
 
We have a link to the League of Women Voters’ website, Vote411.org, which is a very helpful resource for nonpartisan information on the proposals and candidates.  Election workers at a precinct are not allowed by law to explain the purpose of a ballot proposal or answer questions about candidates to ensure that our workers do not bias a voter in any way.  Unlike the TV Show “Who wants to be a Millionaire,” you are also not allowed to “phone a friend” when you are in a voting booth.  Therefore, please get your questions answered ahead of time when possible and one way to do that is review your personal ballot by visiting our website.
 
Poll Watchers and Poll Challengers
 
The public is always allowed to view the voting process at a precinct, with some parameters set by Michigan and federal law.  Michigan law provides strict restrictions that forbid any “poll watcher” or “poll challenger” from talking to a voter whether to assist them or intimidate them. The public is also not allowed to campaign within 100 feet from any public accessible entrance to a precinct or wear any campaign clothing or accessory like stickers, buttons or hats. Our election workers have been trained to provide an environment free of campaigning, maintain the secrecy of the ballot and be helpful to the public.  If you have more questions about the process, I have provided a brief summary of what poll watchers and poll challengers can and cannot do at lansingmi.gov/clerk.
 
Options to Vote a Ballot - Straight and Split Ticket
 
Straight ticket voting is still allowed for this upcoming Presidential General Election despite the efforts of Attorney General Bill Schutte, Governor Snyder and others.  Voters have the right to select a party which will automatically count all of the candidates of that party in the Partisan section of the ballot (front). However, it does not impact the back of the ballot which has the non-partisan and proposal sections like the Michigan Supreme Court, Lansing School Board and many judges. I encourage you to look at the candidates and issues on both sides of the ballot.  If you forget to vote on the back and put the ballot in the tabulator, it is too late to be corrected.
 
In addition, voters have the right to “Split Ticket Voting” where you vote the straight party section AND vote for individual candidates of your choice, whether they are of the same or different party of the straight ticket section. Finally, voters can choose individual candidates of their choice for each office. Please read the instructions to see how many candidates you are allowed to vote for to avoid errors.  
 
If you do make a mistake, you have the right to spoil your ballot and get a new blank ballot to start over to ensure your votes are recorded.
 
Photo ID and Voting
 
If you happen to forget your photo identification on the way to the polls or do not possess an acceptable ID, your vote will still be counted in most situations.  There is a brief affidavit to sign that states that you do not have an ID with you at that time.  Also, you do NOT need your voter registration card to vote.   
The following types of photo ID are acceptable at polling locations:
Michigan driver's license or state-issued ID card
Driver's license or personal identification card issued by another state
Federal or state government-issued photo identification
U.S. passport
Military ID with photo
Student identification with photo from a high school or accredited institution of higher learning
Tribal identification card with photo
 
There is are a very specific types of voters who must show approved photo identification like first time voters who completed a mail-in voter registration form rather than completing the voter registration process at the Secretary of State, County or local clerk’s office.
 
Absentee Ballots
On Election Day, we will accept absentee ballots at the South Washington Office or at the City Hall secured drop box until 8 p.m. If you do not drop off your ballot, you can still vote in person at your precinct.  If you bring your absentee ballot to your precinct, you will have to surrender it and start with a new one to vote at the polls. 
I hope you found this article informative and will take advantage of the resources available to make an informed decision.
 
Chris Swope is the Lansing, Michigan City Clerk.
 
This was printed in the October 30, 2016 - November 12, 2016 edition
 

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