and the life of a county clerk
Presidential Primary: Q&A
(I sent this out to my staff last week; it was picked up and posted to the county's public web site, and it will also appear in the next Washtenaw Legal News.)
Everywhere I go, people ask me about the presidential primary. When will it be held? What will the choices be? Will my vote be secret? Many of you are probably hearing those questions, too. So here are some answers:
The Michigan presidential primary will be held on Tuesday, January 15. In Washtenaw County, no other issues or races are on the ballot. The State will reimburse localities for election costs.
Voters will have to check a box to choose the Democratic or Republican ballot. If you vote by absentee ballot, you'll need to select a party ballot on an attached form. If you vote at the precinct, you'll get a form with your application to vote.
If you don't select one party's ballot, you can't vote in the presidential primary.
Under the law, the ballot selection information (the list of who chose a Democratic or a Republican ballot) will be transmitted to the state party chairs for them to use, most likely in direct mail and phone calling. It is to be kept confidential from anyone else.
After the primary, I expect that a federal judge will strike down that restriction. Depending on the ruling, that could mean the lists of Democratic and Republican primary voters become public information. Or, possibly, the judge could order that the lists be destroyed without any disclosure.
Therefore, chances are, many people will know which ballot you selected. However, the CONTENT of your ballot, who specifically you vote for, is completely secret. Whether you choose a Democratic or Republican ballot, you can vote for any one candidate, OR "uncommitted", OR write in a name which has been properly filed with the State.
The Republican candidates on the ballot are: Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, and Fred Thompson.
The Democratic candidates on the ballot are: Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich. Four other Democratic candidates, under pressure from Iowa and New Hampshire, withdrew their names from the Michigan ballot. These candidates are Joe Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.
Write-in votes WILL NOT COUNT in the primary unless the write-in candidate files an affidavit of identity with the State by January 4. It's very unlikely that any major candidate not on the ballot will file such an affidavit, since such a filing could be used against them in the New Hampshire primary.
If there are enough "uncommitted" votes to earn delegates, those delegates will be elected at congressional district conventions. Very likely, supporters of various candidates will converge to try to win those "uncommitted" delegate seats.
That being said, both national parties are penalizing Michigan for the unauthorized early primary. Republicans have reduced Michigan's delegate count by half. And planning for the Democratic National Convention in Denver next summer is going forward on the assumption that Michigan won't have a delegation there at all. No hotel space, nor seating section on the convention floor, have been allocated to Michigan. Possibly the delegates will end up being seated, after the presidential nomination has already been settled.
We election officials aren't happy with this whole state of affairs, but it's our job to conduct the election according to law.
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