How to mark your ballot

Optical scan ballots

All voters in Michigan use optical scan ballots. Optical scan voting requires voters to either darken an oval or connect the head and tail of an arrow next to each of their choices on their ballot. Completed ballots are fed into a tabulator, which scans and records the votes.

Voters with disabilities may use the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal, which provides them with the opportunity to vote a secret ballot in complete privacy. The AutoMARK system uses the same optical scan ballot available to all voters. It does not count votes, but simply marks the voter's selections on the ballot. Voters select their choices using a touch screen. Adaptive devices such as foot pedals, a puff-sip device, stylus or Braille coded-key pad may be used to assist voters in making their selections. The completed ballot is fed into a tabulator, which scans and records the votes.

Links to video instructions for using optical scan voting systems and the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal are located at the bottom of this Web page.

Instructions for completing your ballot


  TO VOTE: Completely darken the oval opposite each choice as shown: Marking optical scan ballot that uses ovals

- OR -

  TO VOTE: Complete the arrow opposite each choice as shown: Image: Marking optical scan ballot that uses arrows
  IMPORTANT: To mark your ballot, use only a black or blue ink pen. DO NOT USE ANY OTHER INK COLOR!


  PARTISAN SECTION: To vote the partisan section of the ballot, you may cast a "straight ticket," a "split ticket" or a "mixed ticket."

Straight Ticket: Vote the party of your choice. Nothing further need be done in the partisan section.

Split Ticket: You may vote a straight ticket AND vote for individual candidates of your choice.

Mixed Ticket: Vote for the individual candidates of your choice in each office.


  NONPARTISAN and PROPOSAL SECTIONS of the ballot (if any) must be voted separately.


  DO NOT vote for more candidates than indicated under each office title.


  WRITE-IN CANDIDATES: To vote for a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, write or place the name of that candidate in the blank space provided and (completely darken the oval) or (complete the arrow). This must be done even if you cast a straight party vote. Do not cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name is already printed on the ballot for that office.


  CHECK BOTH SIDES OF BALLOT: This ballot has two sides. Be certain to check the reverse side of the ballot.


  WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED VOTING: Place the ballot in the secrecy sleeve so that votes cannot be seen and the numbered stub is visible. Return the ballot to the election official stationed at the tabulator. (If voting by absentee ballot, follow the instructions provided by the clerk for returning the ballot.)


  NOTE: If you make a mistake, return your ballot to the election official and obtain a new ballot. Do not attempt to erase or correct any marks made in error.  

Optical scan voting and AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal videos
Click on the links below to view videos about using optical scan voting equipment and the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal.

  • AutoMark Voter Assist Terminal

Windows Media Files - Video Instructions - Medium Resolution
Part One - Introduction and Description - 1:57 minutes in length
Part Two - Receiving Your Ballot and Ballot Navigation - 2:26 minutes in length
Part Three - Button Use, Making Selections and Write-in Candidates - 2:23 minutes in length
Part Four - Changing Voting Choices and Your Voting Summary - 1:37 minutes in length
Part Five - Marking Your Ballot and Ballot Tabulation - 1:46 minutes in length