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Election Day In Michigan: An Overview of Prohibited Conduct

Election Day is an important event in the United States as it gives citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders and carry out the peaceful transition of government. As a result, Michigan law severely punishes those individuals that attempt to unlawfully influence or disrupt the voting process. Here is an overview of prohibited conduct to be mindful of when heading to the polls:

  • A person shall not persuade a person to vote for or against a particular candidate or party ticket or ballot question, distribute stickers (other than those provided by election officials according to law), solicit donations or gifts or contributions, request or obtain signatures on petitions, or post, display or distribute any material make direct or indirect references to an election, candidate or ballot question IN A POLLING PLACE OR WITHIN 100 FEET OF AN ENTRANCE TO A BUILDING WHERE A POLLING PLACE IS LOCATED. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.744.
  • Unless otherwise allowed by law, the name of an elected or appointed official of this state or a political subdivision of this state shall not appear on any material that is temporarily posted, displayed, or distributed in a polling place or polling room on election day. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $100.00 for a first offense and a fine up to $250.00 for a second or subsequent offense. MCL 168.744a.
  • An elector to whom an official ballot has been delivered is not permitted to leave the polling place without either voting the ballot or returning the ballot to the inspector from whom he or she received the ballot. An elector who attempts to leave the polling place with a ballot in his or her possession, and refuses to deliver the ballot upon request, must be at once ARRESTED ON DEMAND of any member of the board of election inspectors. MCL 168.743.
  • If an elector is challenged as unqualified and is sworn by an election inspector to truthfully answer questions regarding his or her qualifications before receiving a ballot, but gives answers concerning a material matter that are not true, then that person is guilty of perjury punishable by a fine up to $1,000.00 or imprisonment up to 5 years, or both. MCL 168.729.
  • A person shall not, either directly or indirectly, give, lend, or promise valuable consideration, to or for any person, as an inducement to influence the manner of voting by a person relative to a candidate or ballot question, or as a reward for refraining from voting. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(a).
  • A person shall not, either before, on, or after an election, for the person's own benefit or on behalf of any other person, receive, agree or contract for valuable consideration for voting or agreeing to vote (or inducing or attempting to induce another to do the same), refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting (or inducing or attempting to induce another to do the same), distributing absent voter ballot applications to voters and receiving signed applications for delivery to the clerk, or for performing any act prohibited by Michigan's election law. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(b).
  • A person shall not solicit any valuable consideration from a candidate for nomination for, or election to, an office described in this act (unless it is requests for contributions from an authorized representative of the candidate's committee or regular business transactions not intended to secure or influence votes). A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(c).
  • A person shall not, either directly or indirectly, discharge or threaten to discharge an employee of the person for the purpose of influencing the employee's vote at an election. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(d).
  • A priest, pastor, curate, or other officer of a religious society shall not for the purpose of influencing a voter at an election, impose or threaten to impose upon the voter a penalty of excommunication, dismissal, or expulsion, or command or advise the voter, under pain of religious disapproval. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(e).
  • A person shall not hire a motor vehicle or other conveyance or cause the same to be done, for conveying voters, other than voters physically unable to walk, to an election. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(f).
  • A person shall not, while the polls are open on an election day, solicit votes in a polling place or within 100 feet from an entrance to the building in which a polling place is located. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(k).
  • A person shall not keep a room or building for the purpose, in whole or in part, of recording or registering bets or wagers, or of selling pools upon the result of a political nomination, appointment, or election. A person shall not wager property, money, or thing of value, or be the custodian of money, property, or thing of value, staked, wagered, or pledged upon the result of a political nomination, appointment, or election. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(l).
  • A person shall not participate in a meeting or a portion of a meeting of more than 2 persons, other than the person's immediate family, at which an absent voter ballot is voted. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(m).
  • A person, other than an authorized election official, shall not, either directly or indirectly, give, lend, or promise any valuable consideration to or for a person to induce that person to both distribute absent voter ballot applications to voters and receive signed absent voter ballot applications from voters for delivery to the appropriate clerk. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(1)(n).
  • A person or a person's agent who knowingly makes, publishes, disseminates, circulates, or places before the public, or knowingly causes directly or indirectly to be made, published, disseminated, circulated, or placed before the public, in this state, either orally or in writing, an assertion, representation, or statement of fact concerning a candidate for public office at an election in this state, that is false, deceptive, scurrilous, or malicious, without the true name of the author being subscribed to the assertion, representation, or statement if written, or announced if unwritten, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.931(3).
  • A person shall not attempt, by means of bribery, menace, or other corrupt means or device, either directly or indirectly, to influence an elector in giving his or her vote, or to deter the elector from, or interrupt the elector in giving his or her vote at any election held in this state. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(a).
  • A person not duly authorized by law shall not, during the progress of any election or after the closing of the polls and before the final results of the election have been ascertained, break open or violate the seals or locks of any ballot box or voting machine used or in use at that election. A person shall not willfully damage or destroy any ballot box or voting machine. A person shall not obtain undue possession of that ballot box or voting machine. A person shall not conceal, withhold, or destroy a ballot box or voting machine, or fraudulently or forcibly add to or diminish the number of ballots legally deposited in the box or the totals on the voting machine. A person shall not aid or abet in any of the above acts. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(b).
  • A person shall neither disclose to any other person the name of any candidate voted for by any elector, the contents of whose ballots were seen by the person, nor in any manner obstruct or attempt to obstruct any elector in the exercise of his or her duties as an elector under this act. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(c).
  • A person who is not involved in the counting of ballots as provided by law and who has possession of an absent voter ballot mailed or delivered to another person shall not open the envelope containing the ballot, make any marking on the ballot, alter the ballot in any way, or substitute another ballot for the absent voter ballot that the person possesses. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(e).
  • A person present while an absent voter is voting an absent voter ballot shall not suggest or in any manner attempt to influence the absent voter on how he or she should vote. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(h).
  • A person shall not plan or organize a meeting at which absent voter ballots are to be voted. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932(i).
  • A person shall not, at an election, falsely impersonate another person, or vote or attempt to vote under the name of another person, or induce or attempt to induce a person to impersonate another person or to vote or attempt to vote under the name of another person. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison or a fine up to $2,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932a(a).
  • A person shall not assume a false or fictitious name to vote or to offer to vote by that name, enter or cause to be entered upon the registration book in a voting precinct a false or fictitious name, or induce or attempt to induce another person to assume a false or fictitious name in order to vote, by that name, vote, or offer to or enter or cause to be entered upon the registration book of a voting precinct, a false or fictitious name. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison or a fine up to $2,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932a(b).
  • A person who is not a qualified and registered elector shall not willfully offer to vote or attempt to vote at an election held in this state. A person shall not aid or counsel a person who is not a qualified and registered elector to vote or offer to vote at the place where the vote is given during an election. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison or a fine up to $2,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932a(c).

  • A qualified and registered elector shall not offer to vote or attempt to vote in a voting precinct in which the elector does not reside, except as otherwise provided in this act. A person shall not procure, aid, or counsel another person to go or come into a township, ward, or voting precinct for the purpose of voting at an election, knowing that the person is not qualified or registered to vote in that township, ward, or voting precinct. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison or a fine up to $2,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932a(d).
  • A person shall not offer to vote or attempt to vote more than once at the same election either in the same or in another voting precinct. A person shall not give 2 or more votes folded together. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison or a fine up to $2,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932a(e).
  • A person shall not provide compensation to another person for registering individuals to vote that is based upon the total number of individuals that person registers to vote or the total number of individuals that person registers to vote for a particular political party. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932c.
  • A person shall not intentionally misrepresent by word or act in a polling place on election day that he or she is an election official if that person is not an election official. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.932e.
  • A person who makes a false affidavit or swears falsely while under oath for the purpose of securing registration, for the purpose of voting at an election, or for the purpose of qualifying as a candidate for elective office is guilty of perjury punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. MCL 168.933.
  • Any person who advertises or uses in any campaign material, including radio, television, newspapers, circulars, cards, or stationery, the words incumbent, re-elect, re-election, or otherwise indicates, represents, or gives the impression that a candidate for public office is the incumbent, when in fact the candidate is not the incumbent, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.944.
  • Any person who induces or attempts to induce another to make an application to vote as an absent voter, knowing that the person is not qualified to so vote is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. MCL 168.945.

These offenses can subject someone to prosecution in the State of Michigan.  In fact, local prosecutors have a duty under the law to pursue charges whenever he or she receives credible information that an election law criminal offense has been committed.  MCL 168.940.

Also be mindful that almost all of this prohibited conduct is also illegal under federal law and can subject someone to prosecution in the United States District Court where the potential penalties may be more severe. It is NOT double jeopardy to be prosecuted for the same conduct in both state and federal court.  You can expect, if convicted, that the judge will take these violations seriously and hand out harsh penalties to offenders attempting to subvert the democratic process. This danger makes it imperative to have an experienced and skilled lawyer in your corner as a balance against the immense resources of the prosecutor and the police.

If you or a loved one is charged with an election law violation or any other unlawful offense, do not hesitate to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe and Jedinak PLC and protect your rights today.

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