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Michigan elections FAQ: Are noncitizens registered to vote when obtaining state ID?

A line of voting booths
Bridge Michigan is answering reader questions about the 2024 elections as part of our Elections FAQ series. (Shutterstock)
  • A reader asks Bridge if noncitizens acquiring a driver’s license are automatically registered to vote. 
  • U.S. citizens who apply for a driver’s license in Michigan are automatically registered to vote, enhancing access to elections.
  • According to the Michigan Secretary of State, noncitizens can apply for a driver’s license but multiple safeguards exist to prevent them from becoming a registered voter.

As election season draws near and political debates heat up, Bridge Michigan is inviting readers to ask questions about our purple state as part of our elections FAQ series, which includes a weekly live video show and written responses. 

Submit your question here.


Dennis from West Bloomfield asked: Are adults who acquire a driver’s license automatically registered to vote? What assurance is there that the new registered driver is also a citizen? Do we give driver's licenses to noncitizens?

It’s a good question, and one we hear often at Bridge. 


U.S. citizens who apply for a Michigan driver’s license are automatically registered to vote, unless they choose to opt out. 

While noncitizens who are “legally present” in the country can apply for a driver’s license too, multiple safeguards exist to prevent them from registering to vote. Some Michigan Democrats have proposed also allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, but enabling legislation has not advanced.

Under current Michigan law, a person must provide documents showing their citizenship status – such as their birth certificate, social security number or passport – in order to obtain their license or state ID. 

The Secretary of State’s computerized license application system only allows U.S. citizens to become registered voters.

The system prevents voter registration for people providing noncitizen documents, said Michigan Department of State spokesperson, Angela Benander. Employees cannot manually override the system and must complete checks to ensure noncitizens have not been accidentally registered to vote.

Automatic voter registration was written into the Michigan Constitution as part of the 2018 “Promote the Vote” ballot proposal and expanded by lawmakers late last year. A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Election Lab shows similar laws exist in nearly half the states.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, automatic voter registration laws remove barriers to voter registration and improve election accuracy. Opponents say voters are provided insufficient notice of how they can opt out.


To further safeguard against noncitizen voter registration, the Michigan Legislature recently approved an amendment to send registered voters a mail notice in 2025 that explains voter eligibility requirements and cautions that individuals must decline voter registration if they are not eligible to vote.

Attempted voting by noncitizens is illegal in Michigan. It’s also extremely rare nationwide, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice. In the 2016 general election, about 30 noncitizens were suspected of trying to vote, a tiny fraction of the 23.5 million total voters. 

But with illegal crossings at the country's southern border reaching all-time highs, some Republicans have raised the specter of noncitizens voting and promoted legislation to try to tighten related rules.

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