2016 — March 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

BECAUSE YOU ASKED: Here is the difference between Michigan’s March 8th primary and the August 2nd primary (UPDATED)


I have had a number of people ask me about the difference between Michigan’s March 8th primary a week from today and the primary on August 2nd. So, here’s a short explainer.

The March primary on Tuesday, March 8th is a Presidential Primary. This is the election when Michigan voters weigh in on who they want to receive their Party’s nomination and compete in the General Election on November 8th.

This year Michigan is holding a “closed primary”. That means that you will need to choose between a ballot for the Republican candidates (what I like to call the List of Loonies) and one for the Democratic candidates (aka, “The Good Guys/Gals”.)

You do NOT have to be a member of one party or the other to vote, you simply need to pick a ballot. Although I personally don’t like it, some Democrats will take a Republican ballot and vote for the person they think is the least likely to win or choose the person they think is the least insane “just in case”.

On the ballot you will also be asked whether or not you are “uncommitted”. When a voter selects “uncommitted”, this indicates the voter is exercising a vote for that political party, but is not committed to any of the candidates listed on the ballot. If enough voters cast “uncommitted” votes, the party may send delegates to the national nominating convention who are not committed to a specific candidate.

In addition to voting for the presidential candidates, some municipalities may have other things on the ballot (special ballot proposals and special elections to fill unanticipated vacancies are the most common.) In that case, you will have a additional items to fill out to vote on beyond the presidential candidates. You can, in fact, skip the presidential candidate ballot entirely and receive a ballot that has just the other stuff if you choose to.

The August primary is where we will choose the candidates running in the General Election in November for all the other offices. This includes state legislators, members of Congress, judicial positions, local elected officials, etc. In partisan races, this is where we sort out which Republican and which Democrats (and which Green Party candidate and which Libertarian Party candidate, etc.) will face each other on November 8th. We also choose precinct delegates in August and their may be some ballot initiatives thrown in for good measure in some municipalities, as well.

The August primary is NOT a closed primary so everyone gets the same ballot. You can vote for all the candidates of a single party or you can split your vote between two or more political parties. However, you may only vote for candidates in a single party. From the Secretary of State’s website:

Voters in an open primary are given a ballot with a column listing each qualified party’s candidates. Voters then decide which party primary they wish to participate in by voting only in the column of their party choice while in the privacy of the voting station. Voting for candidates in more than a single party’s column will void the entire partisan ballot.

A few other tidbits:

  • No matter how you voted in March, you can vote however you wish in August. In other words, if you chose a Democratic ballot in March, you can still vote for a Green Party candidate in August.
  • The ballot you chose in the March presidential primary is public and FOIAable. WHO you voted for is not, however. So nobody will know if you voted for Senator Bernie Sanders or Secretary Hillary Clinton, for example, unless you tell them. The information on which ballot you chose will be destroyed after a 22-month retention period.
  • The deadline to be registered to vote in the August 2nd primary is July 6, 2016.
  • Despite what you may have been told, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, “Michigan does have a voter identification requirement at the polls”:

    Voters are asked to present an acceptable photo ID such as a Michigan driver’s license or identification card. Please note that voters who do not have an acceptable form of ID or failed to bring it with them to the polls still can vote. They simply sign a brief affidavit stating that they’re not in possession of a photo ID. Their ballots are included with all others and counted on Election Day.

    The following types of photo ID are acceptable:
    • 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

    The ID does not need your address.

Got more questions? Check HERE or ask them in the comments!