Michigan election threats

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Voter registration

This section details threats to voters from and problems with the state's voter registration system.

Verification, database and rejection

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's voter registration verification system as "mixed," citing, "For driver’s license and state identification numbers, exact match is required along with last name, first initial of first name and “substantial match” of first name. Exact match is used for SSN match: last four digits, date/month of birth, and first/last name."[1]

Notification and appeal

3rd party registration

NVRA implementation

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's NVRA implementation as "inconclusive," citing, "Motor-Voter provisions implemented; extent of implementation of §7 public aid agency provisions unclear."[1]

Student voting rights

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's student voting rights as "mixed," citing, "According to the Secretary of State, “a student can register in his/her campus community or in the jurisdiction where he/she resided before moving to campus.” A voter’s home address for voter registration must match the voter’s driver’s license address. A student identification is acceptable photo identification. The Secretary of State sends a special email message to students with registration and voting information. "[1]
  • A Brennan Center for Justice examination of student voting laws rates Michigan's absentee requirements "very restrictive", citing[2], "Any voter who expects to be absent from their town or city of registration for all polling hours on Election Day may vote absentee. EXCEPTION: All first time voters who registered by mail are required to vote in person."

Voter education

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on voter education, how to vote, information on elections, etc.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's sample ballot system as "mixed," citing, "not required to send sample ballots to registered voters.[1]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's voting machine voter education as "mixed."[1]

Absentee and early voting

This section details problems with and threats to the state's absentee and early voting system.

Voter suppression and intimidation

This section details problems and threats involving fraud, intimidation and suppression efforts.

Deceptive practices laws

Voter caging, purges and other eligibility challenges

Main article: Voter roll purges
Main article: Voter caging
Main article: Voter suppression
  • October 31, 2008: A federal appeals court refused to issue a stay in the earlier finding by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy. (See next item.) Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land had argued that the 5,500 voters purged from the rolls were lawfully removed, and that their reinstatement in time for Tuesday's election would be an undue burden. All names are now being restored to the voter lists, and a final ruling is expected by the court sometime in November. [3]
  • October 13, 2008: Judge: Michigan illegally purging voters,[4] From the story:

"Michigan's Secretary of State violates federal law through two methods it uses to purge names from its list of qualified voters, a federal judge in Detroit ruled Monday.

And U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy ordered Michigan election officials to immediately halt and attempt to rectify one of the two practices -- canceling voter registrations for those whose voter identification card is returned as undeliverable.

Murphy ordered the state to remove the "rejected" marking in the qualified voter file for all persons whose original voter ID cards have been returned to the state as undeliverable since Jan. 1, 2006. About 1,500 people have been removed from the voter list in that manner this year, according to evidence presented in the case.

Murphy said a second Michigan practice -- immediately canceling the voter registration of those who apply for a driver's license in another state -- also violates the National Voting Rights Act."

"Newsnight investigative reporter Greg Palast travels from the Native pueblos of New Mexico to the war-zone of the 8 Mile neighborhood of Detroit to meet some of the three million voters who have been disappeared by a GOP campaign draining voter rolls of the poor, the dark-skinned, the defenseless."

  • September, 2008. Voter caging. There are reports from multiple sources that the Michigan Republican party was preparing an attempt to disenfranchise (mostly black) voters whose houses have been foreclosed, saying they no longer live at that address and therefore are not qualified to vote.[5] In a settlement of a lawsuit seeking to prevent Michigan Republicans from using foreclosure lists to challenge voters, the Republicans admitted the existence of the scheme. From a settlement statement by the Michigan Democratic Party[6],

"The settlement acknowledges the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote."

Main article: Michigan foreclosure vote suppression scheme.

Voter intimidation and deception

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's poll challenger system as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Any voter in a municipality can challenge the registration of another voter by filing an affidavit with the clerk, who will send the voter a notice by mail. The voter must respond within 30 days of having received the notice; if he/she fails to appear or cannot prove his/her eligibility to vote, then the registration is cancelled. There is no stated deadline by which challenges must be filed. It is a misdemeanor to make challenges “indiscriminately and without good cause or for the purposes of harassment”."[1]

Polling places and voting

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on election practices, polling places, workers, providing election equipment, etc.

Poll worker training, recruitment and distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's poll worker recruitment as "unsatisfactory," citing, "State law requires three poll workers per precinct. Those first three workers must be qualified voters; however, after those three, 16 or 17 year olds may be appointed as poll workers. Counties are responsible for poll worker recruitment, and, to our knowledge, there are no statewide recruitment efforts."[1]
  • Michiganders reported thousands of problems at polls due to "faulty machines, poll workers who are not equipped to fix them and voters who are concerned with whether or not their ballots will be counted." Residency requirements also created confusion. Problems resulted in some poll goers having to walk away without voting.[7]

Voter ID requirements

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's voter registration voter identification system as "inconclusive," citing, "Voters must either provide photo identification or sign an affidavit stating that they do not have a photo identification."[1]

Polling place accessibility and wait times

Voting machine and ballot distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's voting machine distribution as "unsatisfactory," citing, "All DREs were phased out in favor of optical scan machines by 2006. No law pertaining to allocation of optical scanners."[1]

Malfunctioning voting machinery

  • For an extensive log of voting machine problems, see the VotersUnite! report on election incidents.[8]
  • In a letter sent on October 24, 2008 but not disclosed until November 3rd, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson questioned the reliability of the ES&S M100 machines that tabulate the vote.[9] Johnson, who had noted results on the same set of ballots varying over time (which she attributed to dust build-up), requested authority via statute or directive to conduct random tests.

Ballot design

Provisional ballots

This section lists past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on provisional ballots. Particularly, what are the state's criteria for receiving a provisional ballot (including voting in the wrong precinct) and its procedures for verifying eligibility and then including those votes in the totals.


Eligibility verification

  • According to an October, 2008 Demos study,[10],

While Michigan’s highly developed statewide database keeps the state’s provisional balloting rate relatively low, Michigan nonetheless rejected over 80 percent of its provisional ballots in 2006, the second highest rate in the country.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's provisional ballot verification system as "mixed," citing, "The ballot is counted if the voter’s identity and registration can be verified against the statewide voter registration database. If the voter cast a provisional ballot because he/she failed to present identification at the polling place, he/she may submit, via fax, mail, or in person, an acceptable form of identification and document confirming his/her residence within 6 days of the election.132"[1]

Ballots cast in wrong precinct

  • According to an October, 2008 Demos study,[10],

Of those provisional ballots rejected, 24.4 percent were thrown out because they were cast in the wrong precinct while another 8.5 percent did not contain the voter’s signature.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Michigan's system for provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted, but before they are thrown out, it must be determined that the voter was not assigned to the wrong precinct. By law, poll workers must attempt to direct voters who appear at the wrong precinct to the correct precinct."[1]

Vote verification and security

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on vote verification and security.

Voting machine verification and security

Vote tabulation procedures

Recount procedures

Chain of custody of ballots and e-voting equipment

Election public official issues

Premature media race calling

Vote result challenge procedures

Articles and resources

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Common Cause chart of election issues in Michigan, part of the "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," a Common Cause report released September 16, 2008. The areas looked at include: voter registration, voter identification, caging and challenges, deceptive practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights.
  2. Brennan Center Student Voting Rights, Michigan. The state ratings are found by clicking on the map at Voting Rights
  3. Paul Egan, 'Rejected' voter names on way back, The Detroit News, October 31, 2008
  4. "Judge: Michigan illegally purging voters," Detroit News, October 13, 2008.
  5. Stories about Michigan foreclosure voter disenfranchisement scheme include Dems File Injunction Against MI GOP 'Vote Caging' Plan For Voters Whose Homes Were Foreclosed, Brad Blog, September 16, 2008., Lose your house, lose your vote, Michigan Messenger, September 10, 2008. Obama campaign sues Michigan GOP over voter challenges, Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, September 16, 2008.
  6. Marcy Wheeler, "MI Republicans Admit to Illegal Foreclosure Scheme, “Surrender” to Democrats,", Emptywheel, October 20, 2008.
  7. Kim North Shine and Joe Swickard, Detroit Free Press Michiganders report polling problems November 4, 2008
  8. This past problem and description are from the VotersUnite! Election Problem Log. Click through for included links to origin of report.
  9. Eartha Jane Melzer, Oakland County clerk warns of vote counting machine failures The Michigan Messenger, November 4, 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 Scott Navakowski, "Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008," a report from Demos, October, 2008

External resources

Poll location

Election Protection hotlines

Voting information

Voting rights

Voting requirements

Election officials, election reform groups, and elected officials

Absentee voting

Disabled voters

Student voting rights

State ballot

  • See how organizations you trust recommend you vote on ballot measures and other statewide contests at TransparentDemocracy.


  • Help in other languages from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 中文, 日本語, 한국어, Tagalog, Tiếng Việt, Español

Voting machines

External articles

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times. [. . .] The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.