Jan. 15 is Michigan’s primary date

Published 8:09 pm Friday, January 4, 2008

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Republican Sen. Barack Obama and Democrat Mike Huckabee were both victorious in the Iowa caucuses Thursday, surprising many around the country.
While Michigan's presidential primary election is still over one week away, some say the state could play a big role in the primary, despite not all candidates' names appearing on the state's ballot.
On Jan. 15, residents of Michigan are being asked to hit the polls and nominate the candidate they would like to see run for president.
This year's election is not only frustrating for many, but also confusing in a number of different ways.
Unlike year's past, Michigan voters are being asked to declare a party, meaning they will have to vote on the candidate they would like to see run for president.
It's also a topic that is not sitting well with city and township clerks all across the state.
"This is a tough one because we are not a state that usually has to declare in a primary. We never have to pick a president, the party usually does that," Marge Durm-Hiatt, Niles Township Clerk, said.
Voters will also have to know what party they want to vote for before heading to the polls.
"There are two separate ballots this year – one for Republican and one for Democrat. People need to be prepared to declare which ballot they want, before they vote," Durm-Hiatt said.
In Cass County, voters have a choice of three ballots since they will also be deciding two Cass County Road Commission millage requests.
One ballot contains Democratic candidates and the road proposals, one ballot contains Republican candidates and the road proposals and one contains just the road proposals for those adamant about not declaring a party preference, Cass County Clerk-Register Barb Wilson said Thursday.
Voters can weigh in on the road millage without having to declare a party, Wilson added.
Durm-Hiatt explained that having more than one ballot could make many residents angry, especially considering they will be asked which party they are voting for.
"Then, they will be given one of two ballots. In a way, it's unfair because poll workers will know which way they are voting and most people like to keep quiet about this," Durm-Hiatt said.
Although poll workers cannot say how a person voted, Durm-Hiatt said the thought of having to tell someone is still something that won't sit comfortably with most.
City of Niles Clerk Ruth Harte said another important thing for residents for remember is that this is not an election.
"Nobody is being elected. In the primary, you are just nominating a certain person to run for the election. Basically this means that a person's vote will tell the Michigan delegates how to vote at the National Convention," Harte explained.
Harte also added that not every candidate you see on television is on the ballot.
"Candidates have the option of being left off and you will notice that on our ballots," Harte said.
In all, only four Democrats are on Michigan's ballot – Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd. Ten are listed on the Republican ballot.
According to Secretary of State Terri Land, four Democratic candidates voluntarily withdrew themselves from Michigan's primary – Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joseph Biden and Bill Richardson.
Harte said a lot of it has to do with the fact that the state violated Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules when it moved its primary to Jan. 15, ahead of Feb. 5.
On Sept. 4, 2007, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill moving up the state's presidential primary to Jan. 15.
Granholm approved the bill despite a pact signed by several of the top Democratic candidates who agreed not to campaign in Florida, Michigan and other states that have violated party rules by leapfrogging ahead on the primary calendar.
Party rules say states cannot hold their 2008 primary contests before Feb. 5, except for Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.
As a result of this, many believe the DNC has been stripped of their delegates at the National Convention. However, Jess Minks, Chair for the South County Democratic Party, said he feels the Democrats will be sending all 157 delegates at the convention.
"Mark Brewer, State Party Chair for the Democrats, said he feels we will seat the delegates. It's also being said that Florida is being punished for moving their date. But if you look at the numbers between the two states, that's over 300 delegates who would be stripped. We have a good feeling that won't happen and that we will be seated," Minks said.
He added that this should not discourage people from voting.
"If you don't see the name of a candidate on a ballot, simply mark the uncommitted box. That will not only show your support for the party, but for other candidates as well," Minks said.
Minks added that candidates have until 4 p.m. today to send a letter to the Secretary of State saying they want to be a write-in.
County Commissioner and Democratic Chairman David Taylor of Edwardsburg said since "Michigan election law does not permit write-in candidates," who haven't sent a letter of intent, backers of John Edwards, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson, who are absent from Michigan's primary ballot, could "vote for the person most like them or vote uncommitted."
Land released a press release reminding everyone that the primary election is open to anyone registered to vote in Michigan.
You will be asked to comply with Michigan's voter identification requirement that voters must present photo identification in order to vote. Properly registered voters that do not bring acceptable ID, such as a Michigan driver's license, personal ID card or other current ID document, need only sign an affidavit stating they do not have ID to obtain a ballot.
Land also wants to remind voters that they may obtain an absentee voter ballot if they are:
– age 60 years old or older
-physically unable to attend the polls without the assistance of another
-expecting to be out of town on election day
-in jail awaiting arraignment or trial
-unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons
-appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside your precinct of residence.
It is important to understand that for the Jan. 15 election, you must indicate whether you wish to receive a Democratic or Republican ballot. Either check the box provided on the application form or write out the party name in your letter or postcard.
"The absentee ballots have been time-consuming for us," Durm-Hiatt said. "We have to send out a form asking absentee voters which party they will be voting for, then they have to send it back to us, then we have to send them back the correct ballot. It's also costing a lot of money," she added.
For additional information regarding the Jan. 15 primary, including a map to their local polling place, voters may visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote.