present some important information about some of the "behind the
scenes" people and processes that are in place to make your
job-- selecting your education and government representatives--
easier and accurate. With different rules governing Local,
State and Federal elections, our job is to make this sometimes
complex process less cumbersome to the electorate, and to ensure
that the will of the people is accurately represented.
Get to Know Your Election Officials
Making sense of Michigan’s election system can be a daunting
prospect, but it isn’t difficult once you have a basic understanding
of the people who make it work.
Michigan’s election system is a complex, highly decentralized
system made up of 83 counties, 274 cities and 1,242 townships.
The Secretary of State serves as Michigan’s chief election
officer, with the Bureau of Elections acting on the secretary’s
behalf. The bureau is responsible for the integrity of an election
by ensuring election laws are followed, training and advising 1,500
local clerks, compiling official election results and providing
Next are the county election officials. Counties support the
election process in a number of ways. Each county has a County
Elections Commission, with a chief judge of probate of the county or
probate court district, the county clerk and county treasurer. The
commission provides election supplies, including ballots for
federal, state and county elections.
Counties receive and certify petitions for countywide offices and
ballot proposals. The county also accepts campaign finance reports
from local candidates and trains precinct inspectors.
The conduct of local elections and operation of polling place is
handled at the city, township or school district level, depending on
the nature of the election. A City or Township Election Commission
determines precincts, assesses voting equipment needs, provides
voting supplies and ballots for local elections. The commission is
also responsible for appointing precinct inspectors.
Precinct inspectors are the workers who manage the polls on
Election Day. They enter voters’ names in the poll book, assist with
questions, distribute and collect ballots, make sure proper voting
procedures are followed and help maintain the integrity of the
After you have voted in an election, the appropriate Board of
Canvassers in each city, township and county reviews the results.
The canvassers certify election results from the jurisdiction they
Similarly, a four-member Board of State Canvassers certifies the
results of all statewide offices, district offices that cross county
lines and statewide ballot proposals. Once all the canvassers have
met, the results are considered final.
Each Board of Canvassers consists of two Republicans and two
Voting is an important civic duty, forming the very heart of our
democratic system. Gaining a better understanding of how the system
works makes you a better-informed voter and citizen. Voting gives
you the power to change your community, state and country for the
better. Please remember to vote this year
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The Rights of Voters with Disabilities
Our state constitution further defines the right to vote by also
requiring voters to be residents of Michigan and registered to vote
in their city or township of residence.
Other than city or township residency and age requirements, state
and federal laws do not place any other restrictions on the right to
vote. Voting allows us to shape public policy and determine who
leads our communities, state and nation. Our right to vote is basic
to our system of democracy, and depends on all people having full
and equal access to the ballot.
Voting at the polls can present a unique set of challenges to
people with disabilities. Federal and state laws require Michigan’s
cities, townships and villages to provide a reasonable number of
accessible registration facilities. It is the intent of the law to
ensure that voters with disabilities are fully able to exercise
their voting rights at the polls. Any action or physical barrier
that prevents voters with disabilities from casting a ballot is
The United States Constitution guarantees every U.S. citizen age
18 or older the right to vote.
To fulfill the intent of the laws, election officials must
consider access from outside and inside the polling place. Problems
with the physical surroundings such as narrow doorways; stairs,
broken pavement and other obstacles outside can prevent voters with
disabilities from entering a polling place. Inside a polling place,
issues like inadequate lighting and seating, and voting stations
that cannot accommodate a person who is seated can further hamper
someone’s right to vote.
To ensure that proper accessibility is maintained, federal and
state laws require polling places to remove or make accommodations
for any barriers that prevent voters with disabilities from voting.
Care should be taken to ensure that the polling place is accessible
- doors should not be blocked, alternatives to stairs such as ramps
or elevators should be available, and lighting and seating should be
adequate. Furthermore, at least one voting station should be adapted
to allow a person to vote while seated.
Voters with disabilities who require assistance in casting a
ballot may receive assistance from another person provided that the
person assisting the voter is not the voter's employer, agent of
that employer or an officer or agent of a union to which the voter
If you or someone you know requires special access to the polls,
it’s important to call the clerk’s office ahead of time to make sure
your voting site is free of obstructions. If your precinct is not
accessible, you will be directed to an alternative site that is
accessible. For more information, contact your local clerk. Hearing
impaired residents with questions may contact the Department of
State’s Bureau of Elections by TTY at (517) 322-1477.
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Qualified Voter File (QVF) Plays a Vital
Role in Michigan's Election System
One of the unique challenges Michigan has faced is how to
effectively administer an election system made up of election
officials, administrators, clerks and poll workers from 83 counties,
273 cities, 1,242 townships, 262 villages and more than 500 school
Add to that more than 6.7 million registered voters and the
magnitude of the problem quickly becomes apparent. With such a large
electorate, even straightforward tasks such as updating voter rolls
when people move to new jurisdictions become labor intensive. Unlike
many other states, which keep election records at the county or
state level, Michigan’s voter registration and participation records
are kept at the local level.
Given the size and complexity of Michigan’s election system, one
of the most significant developments to its elections management has
been the Qualified Voter File (QVF).
The QVF is a statewide-computerized system that has made a
tremendous impact. Among its many benefits, the QVF makes it easy
for the Department of State to accurately and quickly forward
registration information from its branch offices to local election
officials. The QVF also reduces the chance for election fraud. When
the QVF was first developed, more than 600,000 duplicate and
ineligible registrations were removed from the state’s voter rolls.
In addition, the QVF eliminates much of the paperwork involved in
tracking changes in voter registrations, making for a more effective
and efficient process.
More than 400 communities are connected to the QVF server in
Lansing through the Internet, including the state’s 83 county clerks
who function as a QVF source for about 1,200 smaller cities and
townships. The QVF has been designed to assist local election
officials with many of their duties, including petition and
candidate tracking; keeping an electronic election calendar; and
absent voter processing.
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