Is ‘split ticket’ voting allowed in Michigan elections? How does it work?

Explaining straight, split, mixed ticket voting and when they’re allowed

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 07: A voter fills out his ballot in a polling station at San Francisco City Hall on June 07, 2022 in San Francisco. California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan, 2022 Getty Images)

Election Day is getting closer and closer for Michigan voters, though voting is already well underway with absentee voting.

The voting process in Michigan is fairly straightforward, but there is some confusion about when voters can vote a “split ticket,” which means voting for candidates in more than one political party.

The simplest explanation:

  • Michiganders cannot vote a split ticket in August primary elections. Voters must choose one political party and vote for candidates within that party only during a primary election, which is called voting a “straight ticket.”
  • In November general elections, however, Michigan voters have a bit more freedom to move around on the ballot. Michigan voters are allowed to select candidates from different parties for different races during the general election -- they are not required to vote only for candidates in a specific party.

Below is a more in-depth explanation of the different voting styles and when they’re allowed, or not allowed, in Michigan elections.

Related: Michigan Election Guide 2022: Key races, ballot proposals, voter information

Voting straight ticket

In Michigan primary elections, voters are required to vote a straight ticket. A voter selects a party, which doesn’t have to match their party affiliation on file, and vote for their preferred candidates within that party. The point of a primary election is to narrow down which candidate from that party will run for that office in the November general election.

To vote a straight ticket, the voter selects which party they intend to vote within. If a person voting in a Michigan primary chooses to vote within the Republican Party only, but then fills in a bubble for a Democratic candidate for a race, their ballot becomes invalid. In Michigan primaries, voters are restricted to vote within one party only, or else their ballot is deemed invalid and will not count.

The situation is different for November general elections.

Michiganders can opt to vote straight ticket during a November general election, but they are not obligated to only vote within that party, as they are during primary elections.

In a general election, if a Michigan voter chooses to vote straight ticket for the Democratic Party, for example, all Democratic candidates in every race on that ballot will be indirectly selected. The voter would not have to select a candidate for each individual race; the Democratic candidates would automatically be recognized as being chosen.

If that voter decides to vote straight ticket for the Democratic Party and also fills in a bubble next to a preferred Democratic candidate, the vote for that candidate will only count once. There would not be two votes for that candidate.

If voting straight ticket, voters need to be aware of non-partisan races and proposals that are also on the ballot. For each of these races, voters will need to make a selection separately. If separate selections are made, and there are no candidates from the straight ticket party selection running in that race, no candidate will be chosen for that race.

In Michigan general elections, voters can choose the straight ticket option, but also then select a candidate from a different party for whatever race or races they choose. This is called voting split ticket.

Voting split ticket

Michigan voters are allowed to split their ticket when voting in November general elections.

Voting split ticket means to make a straight party ticket selection, but then vote for a candidate from a different party for one or multiple races.

For example: A voter could select the option to vote straight ticket for the Republican Party, which would indirectly select the Republican candidate or candidates for each race in which a Republican candidate is running. The voter is allowed to vote for a candidate from a different party in addition to their straight party ticket selection, should they choose to. If the voter wishes to select a Democratic candidate instead of a Republican candidate for a specific race or races, the voter can fill in the bubble next to the Democratic candidate’s name. Doing so would override their Republican straight ticket selection for whatever race they do this for.

So, a voter can override their straight ticket selection for a specific race or races if they individually select a candidate outside of that party.

Only the maximum number of candidates can be chosen for each race, regardless of their party. Voters cannot select more than the maximum number of candidates for a given race. The ballot will explicitly identify how many candidates can be chosen for a given race.

Voting mixed ticket

Michigan voters are not required to make a straight ticket selection when voting in general elections. Voters can select each preferred candidate for each individual race, regardless of the candidates’ party affiliation. This is called voting mixed ticket.

A voter could, in theory, vote for a Republican candidate in one race, a Democratic candidate in the next race, and a Green Party candidate in the following race without any repercussions regarding the ballot’s validity. Voters are allowed to choose any candidate for any race, so long as they only select the maximum number of candidates allowed to be selected for that race.

Voters cannot select more than the maximum number of candidates for a given race. The ballot will explicitly identify how many candidates can be chosen for a given race.

Write-in voting

If a voter wishes to vote for a candidate who is not on the ballot, they can do so using the “write-in” option.

In the primary election, a Michigan voter can select to write in a candidate’s name and select them as their preferred candidate within their party selection. There are a number of rules that must be followed in order for a write-in option to count in the primary election.

In a general election, a Michigan voter can choose to write in the name of a candidate instead of voting for someone already on the ballot, regardless of the candidate’s party affiliation. The voter must fill in the bubble next to the write-in option and then write the name of their preferred candidate in order for that vote to count. If the bubble is not filled in, any text that is written in will not be considered valid.

Click here to see the state’s FAQ page on election and voting dos and don’ts.

More: Decision 2022 coverage

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.