Of the eight states that administer elections on the local level, Michigan is the largest—involving 83 county clerks, 1,240 township clerks, 274 city clerks and 93 village clerks. Michigan elections are administered by 1,690 county and local election officials—making it the most decentralized election system in the nation (Bureau of Elections, June 2011).
In Michigan, all federal, state, county, township, city, village and school elections are restricted to four dates each year:
- Fourth Tuesday in February
- First Tuesday after the first Monday in May
- First Tuesday after the first Monday in August
- First Tuesday after the first Monday in November
Exceptions to those dates include:
- Villages that opted to fill their elective offices on the odd-year September election date
- Special elections called by the state Legislature
- School districts, intermediate school districts and community college districts that wish to present a millage proposal, bond proposal or a proposal to borrow funds on a date other than one of the four “fixed” election dates
Michigan election law designates the secretary of state as Michigan’s “chief election officer,” with supervisory control over local election officials in the performance of their election-related duties.
The Bureau of Elections works under the direction of the secretary of state and the State Board of State Canvassers. The Bureau of Elections accepts and reviews petition filings, conducts statewide training programs on elections, assists local election officials with their administrative duties, oversees the operation of Michigan Qualified Voter File (QVF) system, publishes manuals and newsletters, and monitors legislation affecting the administration of elections. In addition, the Bureau of Elections administers Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act and Lobby Registration Act.
County clerks are responsible for coordination of the administration of elections for school districts that are contained within more than one township, training precinct inspectors and assisting with the administration of Michigan’s QVF System.
Township clerks are certified by the State of Michigan under the Election Officials’ Accreditation Program mandated by Michigan election law to maintain voter registration records for their township, and are responsible for administering all federal, state, county, township and, in some cases, village elections. Township clerks who have a school district wholly contained within their township are also responsible for the administration of the school district’s elections. Election administration consists of:
- Receiving nominating petitions and Affidavits of Identity.
- Managing voter registration using the QVF system: Accepting voter registrations, maintaining voter registration files, transferring voter registrations in compliance with federal and state recordkeeping requirements, and oversees the use of the electronic poll book.
- Administering absentee voting (AV) and conducting elections: Receiving AV applications, and records, tracks and mails AV ballots. Election responsibilities include controlling campaign materials, handling recounts, conducting special and recall elections.
- Posting and publishing state-required election notices.
Four governmental bodies ensure the integrity of the voting process in Michigan:
- The Board of State Canvassers is responsible for: Canvassing and certifying statewide elections, conducting recounts for state-level offices, canvassing nominating petitions, canvassing state-level ballot proposals, adopting ballot language for statewide ballot proposals, and approving electronic voting systems for use in the state.
- The Board of County Canvassers is responsible for canvassing votes within the county, certifying elections for local, countywide and district offices, and inspecting the county’s ballot containers.
- County Election Commissions are responsible for furnishing specified election supplies (including ballots), conducting recall clarity hearings, and establishing precinct boundary lines for school districts.
- Township Election Commissions are chaired by the township clerk and are responsible for designating precincts and polling places, selecting voting machines, testing equipment and conducting public accuracy tests, printing and proofreading ballots, and appointing election inspectors.