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September 25, 2012 (Issue 2012-75)

Use of the U.S. Citizenship Question on Applications to Vote and AV Applications

The Bureau of Elections offers the following information as a reminder of the instructions for use of applications containing the citizenship question.

Applications to Vote (used in the polls):

In October 2011, the Bureau of Elections advised clerks that the prescribed Application to Vote form must include the citizenship question (1) at the February 28, 2012 presidential primary, and (2) at the November 6, 2012 general and all subsequent elections. The communication announcing the new Application to Vote form last October noted that many jurisdictions have previously used or were currently using the citizenship question. The communication also stated that existing stock (without the citizenship question) could be used through the August 2012 primary and that beginning with the November 6, 2012 General Election, the citizenship question would appear on all Applications to Vote.

Instructions for handling situations where voters appearing at the polls do not answer the citizenship question were provided last January (prior to the Presidential Primary) and again in July and August. Those instructions required that a voter appearing at the polls who did not answer the question on the Application be asked whether he or she is a citizen.  On August 7, 2012 the instruction was clarified to streamline the process:

            "If a voter does not answer the citizenship question read the following statement

            to the voter:

"Under the Michigan Constitution and election laws you must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote."

Then issue a ballot to the voter."

The objective of the citizenship question is to place non-citizens who have inadvertently registered to vote on notice that it is not proper for them to vote. By reading the statement above to those who do not indicate that they are a citizen, you have placed them on notice that it is illegal for a non-citizen to vote.

These instructions make it clear that no voter will be denied a ballot for failure to answer the citizenship question.

For voters in the polling place who answer "No" to the citizenship verification question, election inspectors must not issue a ballot and the clerk must follow-up with a written notice to the voter as previously directed.

Absent Voter Applications:

Use of the citizenship question on Absent Voter Ballot Applications has been discontinued.  If you have current stock that includes the citizenship question on AV Ballot Applications, please use a dark marker to block out the question area on these forms.  Future production of AV Ballot Applications should not include the U.S. Citizenship question.

The instructions issued last January and most recently issued in August clearly state that an AV ballot must be issued even if the voter fails to answer the citizenship question. Further, clerks are not required to seek an answer from voters who fail to answer the citizenship question.

For absentee voters who answered "No" to the citizenship verification question, clerks were instructed to refrain from issuing a ballot and follow-up with a written notice to the voter.

Training Sessions

The Bureau of Elections has announced regional training sessions beginning on October 2 that will cover a number of topics, including training points for precinct inspectors in implementing these instructions. The list of training sites and times and the online registration form can be found in News You Can Use 2012 - 74.

Questions?  Please contact the Bureau of Elections at 1-800-292-5973

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