Monday, September 15, 2008

Voting in Michigan (and elsewhere): Myths and Truths

I know. It's been pretty heavy lately on this blog. I have two more, non-partisan posts to make this week about voting, and then I'm moving back to my regularly scheduled program. For those that are sick of my soapbox, you can return on Wednesday for cooking or later in the week for... whatever.

I just can't sleep, am eating the wrong foods (my way of dealing with stress), and am totally wired about this election. I feel that I need to do my part, in whatever way I can, to ensure voter participation. This country simply will not work without an INFORMED and ACTIVE voter base. Democracies can't work without active participation. So here goes, back onto the soapbox:

As citizens of the U.S., we have an inalienable right to vote for our representatives, be they city council members or the President of the United States.

We also, sadly, have a long history of various interests trying to take away those rights by misinformation.

Why would anyone do that? Demographics.

If a party determines that a particular voting demographic won't work for their candidate or cause, they may try to put up road blocks to stop that group from voting.

The group that has suffered the most from these road blocks over the years is the African Americans. This will be true in the upcoming election, and other groups that will be challenged will be students and Latinos.

Each group will be challenged on different bases. For example, in Michigan, voter challengers will be stationed at the polls with foreclosure lists. They plan to challenge any voter whose home has been foreclosed. Why does this target a particular group?

From an article by Eartha Jane Melzer in The Michigan Messenger:

"a full sixty per cent of sub-prime loans in Michigan went to African American families and that thus they bear a far higher rate of foreclosures."

The fact of the matter is that you CAN vote whether or not your home has been foreclosed. You just need your picture ID to match your voter registration address.

Here are some Myths and Facts about voting in Michigan, compiled by
Jason are why (these especially apply to college students, but they also apply to folks who have recently moved from out of state):

Myth: You may have heard that registering to vote at school will affect your health insurance or your car insurance.

Fact: Insurance companies don't care where you're registered to vote.

Myth: You may have heard something about not being able to register at school because it is not your true "home."

Fact: In Michigan, you have the choice of registering at your parents' house or at school.

Myth: You may have heard that you can't register to vote at school if the address on your Michigan driver's license is your parents' address.

Fact: You can register to vote at school, and your Michigan driver's license records will be automatically updated with your new address. The Secretary of State should send you a sticker with your school address. You MUST put that sticker on the back of your license and then it will match your voter registration address and you won't be challenged on Election Day.

Myth: You may have heard you won't be able to vote this fall if you're away from home at school and this is your first time voting.

Fact: There are two ways first-time Michigan voters can vote: you can register to vote at school and vote in person on Election Day, or you can go home sometime this fall and register in person or request an absentee ballot in person and vote absentee.
Registering at school is the easiest way to vote.

Myth: You may have heard something about needing to show a Michigan driver's license with the address where you're voting on Election Day.

Fact: You can show a student ID, a passport, or even an out-of-state license on Election Day, or if you dont' have a photo ID, you can sign a statement saying that and vote anyway.

If you are a convicted felon, you are STILL ALLOWED TO VOTE IF YOU HAVE SERVED YOUR SENTENCE. Here are the specifics:

This information focuses on voting, and assumes that one is registered to vote or able to register, unless otherwise stated.

You are legally allowed to vote if:

· You have been charged with a crime, but not convicted[1] and sentenced. This is true whether or not you are in jail. If you have been convicted but not sentenced, you may still vote.[2]

· You have been released from confinement after serving a sentence.[3]

· You are on probation or parole.[4]

You may not vote if:

· You have been convicted and sentenced for a crime, and are in confinement as a result of that conviction and sentencing. Whether the conviction and confinement are for a state or federal crime makes no difference, nor does it matter if the conviction and sentence are in another state.[5]

· You are under house arrest, on a tether, or in a work release program. These are all considered “confinement” by the Michigan Department of prisons (Department of “Corrections” in current doublespeak) for the purpose of voting.[6], This has recently been questioned among elections officials,[7] and apparently there has been no Attorney General opinion or court ruling on it, which leaves it susceptible to legal challenge.

Note that one’s previous voter registration is not canceled by confinement following from a conviction and sentence.

Homeless people can also vote in Michigan. They can obtain absentee ballots and registration through local homeless shelters.

From an article by Eric T. Campbell in The Michigan Citizen:

"Cheryl P. Johnson of the Coalition On Temporary Shelter told the Michigan Citizen that the 13,000 homeless in Detroit also have the opportunity to vote through absentee ballots.

COTS has four locations in the Detroit area which house homeless citizens in transition and permanent residents who may suffer from physical disabilities.

The city clerk’s office has traditionally had a presence at the shelters during elections to register voters and promote awareness, Johnson told the Michigan Citizen.

'We definitely focus on getting people knowledge about their voting rights,' Johnson says.

Johnson also said that local and national candidates have campaigned at temporary and permanent shelters in an effort to address the problem of homelessness and the people that have been victims of it.

'We’ve always had that kind of open door policy to allow nominees to come and speak.'

COTS is located at 26 Peterboro and can be reached at 313-831-3777."

For full information on your rights in terms of picture identification and making SURE you won't be challenged at the polls, please go to:

this site developed by the Michigan Secretary of State office.

If you print out the pdf file from this site, read it carefully and bring it with you to the polls and a vote challenger tries to challenge you, show the challenger and the voting clerk the document and point out the section that pertains to your particular situation. The vote challengers are relying on scare tactics and they do NOT expect you to be prepared. If you are prepared and have backing from the Secretary of State Office documents, it's unlikely the challenge will continue.

Do you need to register to vote? You can register to vote ANY TIME up to October 5th, 2008. If you need to register, the quickest and easiest way is go to:

This is a site that is paid for by Barack Obama for President, but you can register using that site NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE VOTING FOR. There is NO place on that site where you need to post your political affiliation.

This site can be used by any citizen of the United States who wants to vote.


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Jen thanks for this post.

I'm very worried about this election too. The stakes are so high.

Jen said...

NYC, the stakes are, indeed, high. I just want to do whatever I can to get the word out.

How do folks feel in Italy about the elections?

Goofball said...

wow is registring to vote that complicated and confusing? Very educating post Jen! I didn't know anything about that.

I'm glad that Belgium is a rare country with a "duty to vote". Everyone with a Belgian identity card is obliged to go voting in the town of his registered address (since Belgium is a small country we can all "drive" home to fullfil our duty anyway). A couple of weeks before the election , all adults get a voting card in the mail with the voting station where they are supposed to go. Elections are always organised on a Sunday!
Only foreigners need to register to vote for municipal elections if they want to.

If you happen to be abroad, working on Sunday all day, need to bring a flight ticket, letter from your employer, ... to proof your legitimate absence to the town hall. If not you theoretically can get a fine if your name does not get a checkmark on the voters lists in the voting stations. (although our courts are overloaded with work already and never really persue the absent voters).

Nevertheless voting day in Belgium always brings a big crowd moving through towns. I love that. Everyone is outside, walking around, getting to and from the voting stations: young and old is on the move that day.

It also results in a lot of "apolitical" blank votes or votes for extreme right parties or ... made by people that are disgusted or desintrested by politics. Still...that is an important signal to get in a democracy as well.

Unknown said...

Thanks for providing this vital information!

Dru said...

wow, I didn't know all this was happening in Michigan. I bet some form of this is happening everywhere. Thanks for letting us know what is going on.

Jen said...

Goofball - that's fascinating about the Belgium system. I WISH it were that way in the States.

Greg - all we can do is provide information, right?

Dru - Glad to make you aware of it. This is one problem with our States' rights focus in our country - it's a different story in every state. YIKES.

Warda said...

Thank you Jen for everything you're doing.
Ican't believe there are only 7 weeks left. I am excited yet scared about what can happen. My husband came from Germany a couple of weeks ago and said that even German televisions are getting excited about the campaign and that Obama was everywhere and that his speech was aired live in bars and on all stations. It was a historic moment. A historic day. I felt more inspired than ever before. Let's have another historic moment in 7 weeks.

glamah16 said...

I cant believe they are trying to challenge people like that. Its unfortunate because ut affects blacks the most. Hell the way things are going in the economy a large percentage of people in this country can be 'challenged'on residential status due the high rate of foreclosures. Amazing! I was just reading the prosecuter who bought Detroits Mayor down home is foreclosre too.I hope we are armed from the last elections and can really challenge back and fight any wrongdoings at the polls.
Keep up the good posts.

April said...

I'm hoping that the news today about Lehman Bros and Merril Lynch really makes people re-think what should be important this election season.
Michigan, I think, does have more problems than other states, but I had to call the registrar's office after I moved because they registered my address with E. in front of it instead of W. Thankfully, it was easy to do as I had filled out my form correctly. But I wonder how many people don't take the time to call?

jennifer said...

Go Jen- some coherent, pro-active writing is exactly what I needed to read this morning. I am also feeling crazy when I think about the election. I've actually elected to stop watching the news shows until I get a handle on how upset I get.
Thank you for this thoughtful post. I myself have volunteered to give people rides to the polls. I live in a hostile climate in November, so many people may stay home if the weather is bad and they don't have a 4x4. I'll be knocking on their doors to take them.

Karen Olson said...

Hear hear for your effort to get people registered to vote. This is probably The Most Important Election in my lifetime, and it makes me angry that people aren't hearing about the issues, but about personalities. I can only hope that the debates will bring the issues back to the forefront and everyone will realize how important it is to be heard.

Jen said...

Oh, Warda, I certainly hope we do. We have exchange "family" in Germany, too, and they've been keeping us up to date with how involved GErmany is with this election. I feel like the world's eyes are watching us.

Glamah, the whole foreclosure thing is beyond insane. And punishing people so that they have no say in changing the policies that brought them down is just beyond despicable. If I can get even one more person to register through this, that would be great.

April, I'm so glad you took that time to call. And you're right - it's hard to say how many people DO take the time.

Jennifer, I'll be doing the same thing on Election Day, even though our weather will not be as bad, I'm guessing, but since we have no decent public transportation I'll be driving all day.

Karen, I'm hoping for a general wake-up call after the debates, too. I'm truly sick of the personality wars.

Sister Sassy said...

hmmmm... I wonder if anyone is looking to make sure our homeless people are voting. I'll be working the Safe Harbor system next month-I'll ask them.

I also need to make sure I change my address on my license since they almost didn't let me vote in the primary because it didn't match. I don't want to give them any reason to even challenge my right to vote in this one. Too important.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these! So many of my students say that they aren't voting and I've been trying to answer all their questions and encourage them to vote. I'm still amazed at the apathy among our yutz (channeling Joe Pesci).

Betsy said...

Hi Jen! I just wanted to let you know that I sent off for my absentee ballot last week, so both you and Barack can count on my vote! :-)

I hear that Ann Arbor has been pounded by rain / wind over the past few days. I hope you're OK! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you and Anno and everyone else who's currently being battered by Mother Nature!

Stay safe and dry!

cathouse teri said...

This was a very well written and informative post. I hope it does encourage people to realize that they are free to act according to their beliefs and that they live in a country which gives them this right. It should definitely be appreciated.

Having said that, let me point out that this also gives people the right not to vote. The "duty to vote" idea may seem to be an effective one, but it is quite contrary to the basis of this free nation. There are those who don't vote because they are uniformed. Or because they are lazy and apathetic. And there are those who choose not to vote because of their belief system. I say we should all stand up and be thankful that we are able to vote or not to vote without fear of repercussion.

Thistlemoon said...

Thanks as always for these thought provoking posts, Jen. It has helped me a lot. I have become so disillusioned about politics over the past 8 years that your posts are helping me to get motivated to do my part.

Anonymous said...

Jen, you are so wonderful.

Anonymous said...

What an incredibly informative post! I don't think I could even find all of this information for Pennsylvania!

I can say that I feel as though I am doing my part. ALL of my students in all of my classes are registered to vote...I made sure of that by supplying vote registration forms.

I am giving at least three hours of my time every single week to work in Obama's local office making phone calls (only one person hung up on me and I called the bastard back telling him I accidently disconnected IF he could hang up on me---NOT).

I am canvassing and will be putting a sign in my yard. I have donated and I wear an Obama button every single day...if the powers that be don't like it...TOUGH NOOGIES.

If needed, I may offer to drive people to the is the first time in my life that I've been this active...too much depends on it...and I'd rather die than not is that important!

Jen said...

Sassy, it's worth checking into. I talked with our HQ staff yesterday, and I know they're checking it now. I volunteered to go into our centers with forms, if that will help.

Oh, Dingo, that is SUCH a problem. Put up on the board - it's SUCH an easy way to get registered.

Betsy - YAY! As for A2, it was pounded, but not nearly as badly as many other areas. There were actually flood warnings in Macomb and parts of Wayne counties! They seem to be okay now, though.

Teri - that's why I found Goofball's response so interesting. In Belgium it's a legal responsibility, not a "right". Also, in most countries, election day is on a Sunday or a national holiday so folks aren't trying to juggle work and getting to the polls. We talk the talk, but we probably need to walk the walk more strongly.

Jenn, there are many things I'm disillusioned with, as well, but like many other responders here, I feel this election is too key not to get very, very involved.

Oh, Hotmama, you inspire me so much! I'm not as good with the calls and canvassing (I'm a little shy IRL) and I can't wear my button to work, but I DO wear my buttons literally EVERYWHERE else. I do try to get to Obama HQ 4 -5 weekdays and then do at least something over each weekend.

Betsy said...

Have you seen this?

The beginning is a bit long, but it starts to pick up speed and the ending is AWESOME!

Jen said...

Betsy, C is next to me doing German and looking for any excuse to STOP doing German, so I'm going to check it out later, but I love Craig and am looking forward!

Shayne said...

great post I hope that it helps bring more people to the poles on Nov 4th. I plan to be there first thing, before hubby goes to work.

Rock the Vote!