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Michigan elections FAQ: How to find rules local officials must follow?

Voting booth and US flag
Michigan publishes a manual for local election officials that explains how voting should be conducted. (Shutterstock)
  • A reader asks Bridge Elections FAQ if the general public can find state guidelines for how elections should be conducted
  • Michigan voters can find an 18-chapter election manual on the Secretary of State’s website. It provides significant detail
  • Some guidance documents are not always widely released, but the public can submit requests for that information

Bridge Michigan is inviting readers to ask questions as part of our new Elections FAQ series and Voter Guide. Ask your own question here

One reader asks: “The Secretary of State provides guidelines to the county/city/township clerks as to how the election is to be conducted. Are those guidelines available to the general public for review?”

Our answer, in short: Yes, mostly. 

On this page, scroll down to the “Election Officials’ Manual/ Accreditation Study Guide” section, where you can find the state’s 18-chapter election manual, which explains Michigan election rules, from how voting equipment should be prepared to how ballots should be sealed when polls close. 


Each chapter of the election manual is about 13 pages long and breaks down a different topic regarding elections, including:

  • The first seven chapters describe the Michigan election process, how voters register and how candidates can be nominated. 
  • The next seven chapters explain preparations for election day and what officials must do to prepare. 
  • In chapter 15, the manual discusses school elections and election dates. Throughout the last three chapters, readers can find information on what happens once polls close. 

The Michigan Secretary of State also provides guidance to clerks on specific issues in the run-up to an election. 

While this information is not always immediately made public, anyone can request these documents by submitting a request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, which requires state and local government departments to disclose unreleased information to the public upon request.

Some recent election guidance documents have proven controversial. 

A Michigan Court of Claims judge this week struck down a December 2023 guidance Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had given clerks regarding signature matching for absentee ballot applications and envelopes. 



The guidance told clerks to give voter signatures an "initial presumption of validity" before reviewing them for obvious differences between the version of the voter’s signature they have on file. But that guidance, a judge ruled, was "incompatible" with Michigan laws and the state constitution. 

Similarly, the Michigan Court of Appeals in October ruled that Benson exceeded her authority when she put new restrictions on poll challengers. 

Benson’s office appealed the poll challenger case to the Michigan Supreme Court. Next week, justices will hear arguments over whether Benson’s instructions were compatible with Michigan law, and whether she should have gone through a traditional rule-making process.

Read other Bridge Elections FAQ stories, or submit your own question

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