The write-in candidate

Have you completed the Michigan requirements to be a write-in candidate?

The Michigan gubernatorial election will take place on Nov. 4, 2014. The election will determine the new governor of MichiganClass II U.S. Senate seat and United States House of Representatives, as well as various state and local positions.

During any election, voters may notice campaigns for write-in candidates.  When a candidate’s name does not appear on the ballot, it is considered a write-in. Voters are granted the right to fill in this space with any candidate's name they choose.

Write-in candidacies are sometimes a result of a candidate being legally or procedurally ineligible to run under his or her own name or party. Write-in candidacies may be permitted where term limits bar an incumbent candidate from being officially nominated for, or being listed on the ballot for re-election. In some cases, write-in campaigns have been organized to support a candidate who is not personally involved in running; this may be a form of draft campaign.

Some jurisdictions, including the State of Michigan, require write-in candidates be registered as official candidates before the election. Michigan election law requires an individual who wishes to seek nomination or election to file a “Declaration of Intent” at a federal, state, county, city, township, village or school office. This request must be completed with the appropriate election official by 4 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election. The Michigan Bureau of Elections Election Officials’ Manual explains the following:

  • The local clerk is responsible for notifying the precinct board of any write-in candidates who filed a “Declaration of Intent” by the filing deadline.
  •  A write-in vote cast for an individual who has not filed a “Declaration of Intent” does not count. Similarly, a write-in vote cast for an individual who filed a “Declaration of Intent” does not count unless the office for which the write-in vote was cast corresponds to the office identified on the “Declaration of Intent”; if a partisan primary, a write-in vote cast for an individual who filed a Declaration of Intent does not count unless the office and party correspond.
  •  The “Declaration of Intent” requirement is waived if a candidate appears on the ballot and has died. Otherwise he or she is disqualified after 4 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election. If the waiver is invoked, all write-in votes cast for the office must be counted. This includes any write-in votes cast for candidates who have not filed a “Declaration of Intent.”

Michigan election inspectors must record all write-in votes exactly as cast. The record should reflect the candidate’s name with any name variations or misspellings preserved. The record should also include the office and political party (if a partisan primary) they are running for. Records include tallies used to record votes counted for each write-in candidate.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections Election Officials’ Manual highlights the following example:

John A. Smith – County Treasurer – Democrat – 16 votes.

Jon Smith – County Treasurer – Democrat – 2 votes.

J. A. Smith – County Treasurer – Democrat – 1 vote.

Additionally, it is stated that the Board of Canvassers’ responsibility is to review all write-in votes to determine their validity. In Petrie v Curtis, 387 Mich. 436 (1972), the Michigan Supreme Court stated:

“Where the intent of the voter as expressed by his ballot, when considered in the light of such surrounding circumstances, is not doubtful, the ballot should be counted and allowed for the person intended. “Consequently, the Board may accept variations in the spelling of a write-in candidate’s name if the voter’s intent in casting the vote is clear.

Voters can request an absentee ballot if they are unable to make it to their polling location and everyone can access a copy of their ballot by typing in the requested information.

The State of Michigan uses 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. In order 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 the voter casts a straight party vote. Voters should not cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name is already printed on the ballot for that office.   

The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team offers training for elected and appointed officials. This improves effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team also offers professional training in Parliamentary Procedure.  To contact an expert in your area, visit or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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