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Here's what you need to know about Michigan's presidential primary

voter booth
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

After months (years? decades?) of campaigning, the 2020 presidential primary is finally coming to Michigan. Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, March 10 to decide which Democratic candidate will take the majority of Michigan’s 125 pledged delegates.

Following Super Tuesday, the Democratic primary has narrowed to a race between Joe Biden with 453 delegates and Bernie Sanders with 382. 

To win the race outright, a candidate will need 1,991 pledged delegates, so there's a long way to go.

Here’s what you need to know about primary day.

How do I vote?

Precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10. If you’re voting absentee, your clerk needs to receive your ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

If you’re not registered to vote, you can register in-person at your clerk’s office through Election Day. (It's too late to register online if you intend to vote in the primary.)

Michigan has a closed presidential primary, which means you don’t have to be a member of any political party to vote, but you will have to state which primary you intend to vote in. You’ll then be given that party’s ballot. The choice you make now does not affect any future elections or primaries you may vote in.

Confusingly, non-presidential primaries in Michigan (like the one in August) are open, meaning you do not have to state which party’s primary you intend to vote in.

What will be on the ballot?

Every candidate that has filed with the Michigan Secretary of State will be listed on the ballot, regardless of whether or not they have dropped out of the race.

There are 15 Democratic candidates and 4 Republican candidates on the ticket. However, twelve of those Democrats have dropped out of the race, and one of the two remaining Republican candidates is President Donald Trump, so he has a slight advantage.

That means most Michigan voters will be choosing from one of three Democrats: Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, and Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg both dropped out of the race after finishing Super Tuesday in third and fourth, respectively. Gabbard has only earned one delegate so far.

In addition to the presidential primary, many counties and townships are voting on local ballot proposals, including a Detroit Institute of Arts millage renewal vote in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties. If you don’t want to vote in a primary, but do want to vote in a local contest, you can request a ballot that only lists your jurisdiction elections.

What this ballot won’t have on it are any congressional primary races — those are being held in August.

When will the results be known?

It’s always a guessing game whether a winner will be declared on election night, and this year it seems even more unlikely.

Many clerks are nervous about the high volume of absentee ballots that will need to be processed in addition to all of the in-person ballots. Absentee ballots take longer to process since they need to be removed from envelopes, have the signatures on them verified, and then tabulated. And under current law, none of that can happen until Election Day.

But no matter how long it takes, Michigan Radio will be here with the latest primary coverage.

Michigan's presidential primary is Tuesday, March 10.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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