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Posted on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Washtenaw County among those choosing not to comply with ballot citizenship confirmation

By Cole Bertsos

The Washtenaw County Election Commission voted Thursday to not follow a recent demand from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, which would have voters in the Nov. 6 general election confirm their U.S. citizenship on ballot applications, as reported by The Detroit News.

County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum had planned to let cities and townships choose to use a form including the question or one without, but the commission in a 2-1 vote Thursday decided to have one form without the question, The News reported.

Johnson said in the article the question is needed so the state can better identify noncitizen immigrants who were accidentally registered to vote while getting a driver's license at the Secretary of State.


Secretary of State Ruth Johnson File Photo

Clerks in other jurisdictions have also elected not to follow Johnson's demand, The News reported.

Dearborn voters will be seeing the same forms as before the announcement as a way to save money by not printing the new ballot applications, while both Macomb County and Lansing plan to take the question off, The News reported.

Clerks in other counties said they will include the question on ballot applications, but they don't intend to closely monitor them.

To read the whole story, click here.


Larry Kestenbaum

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 5:25 a.m.

(5) Another problem with the question was that, in some places, a significant number of voters became argumentative about it, which also gums up the process. (6) A third problem with the question has to do with absentee ballots. If a voter neglected to mark a "yes" answer to the question, the absentee ballot would not be counted. Unfortunately, many absentee ballots already go uncounted because voters forget to sign in all the required spaces, or accidentally vote in more than one party primary on the same ballot. I did not want to see even more absentee ballots discarded because of technicalities. (7) The decision on which form to use is really part of the job of the city or township clerk in each jurisdiction. The county provides ballots and supplies to the local clerks without charge. (8) Since it is the local clerks who have to deal with election day precinct issues, my plan was to offer forms "with" or "without" the question, and allow each local clerk to decide which one to use. (9) The other two members of the Election Commission voted that the county should only provide forms for free "without" the question. Local clerks who wanted to use forms "with" the question would thus have to pay for them. I hope this sheds some light on the situation.

Larry Kestenbaum

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 5:24 a.m.

A few answers to questions above: (1) The Washtenaw County Election Commission consists of Chief Judge Donald Shelton (chair), County Treasurer Catherine McClary, and myself as County Clerk. The Election Commission officially authorizes ballots in every election held in Washtenaw County, and also determines whether proposed recall petition language is "clear" or not. (2) The law which would have required the citizenship question to be asked (and refused a ballot to anyone who did not answer "yes") was vetoed by the Governor and never went into law. I support that veto. (3) As a general rule, I do follow the recommendations of the Secretary of State and the Bureau of Elections. However, those recommendations are not regulations, and do not have the force of law. (4) From an election administration standpoint, the main problem with the citizenship question is that it adds yet another time consuming step to the voting process, which matters when many precincts have to process a thousand or more voters during a presidential election. (continued in next comment)


Sun, Sep 16, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

I wonder if illegal voters voted for conservative canidates if liberals would be as willing for non-citizens to vote? If you can get a drivers liscense, under motor voter you can vote.

John Seychel

Sun, Sep 16, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

LOL, what our legislature spends our money on. Rick Snyder told her to cease and desist, and the last time I remember is that he is the Boss of Bosses in the state house, Right! so add the question and please don't spend our money talking about it. The lines are going to be long starting as soon as the pools open, I think I'm going to camp out at my voting booths. LOL

martini man

Sun, Sep 16, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

Voter fraud is the denocrat's way of getting elected . Vote early often ..Bless you ACORN and similar groups.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

ONE more reason to VOTE come November 2012

Jay Thomas

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

I suspect this would help in the prosecution of people illegally voting; they will claim they didn't know and this question makes it more difficult to pretend. It is not going to prevent anyone however.


Sun, Sep 16, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

moveover2012 You are incorrect. You can register to vote at Seceratary of state office when you get a druvers liscense. In order to vote abenstee, you need to apply in person the first time you vote, after that you can request a ballot by mail. That is why DOJ refuses to allow voter rolls to be perged of dead and moved voters.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

YOU HAVE TO REGISTER AT CITY HALL to get a VOTER REGISTER CARD! LOOKS like the SEC. of STATE office cannot do the job right! The city clerk will mail out your NEW voterr register card and your ballot ...just in case. SO stik with the City clerk!


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

There should be two boxes to check on the ballot. #1 are you a US citizen? (given motor voter errors and for proof of knowingly voting in the rare event of fraud). #2 Is this the only vote you are casting for a national election? Seems Maryland's Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District has had to drop out of the race. Turns out she voted twice, once in Maryland and once in Florida in two separate years' worth of elections. With extended early voting, a real possibility for those with loose definitions of "residency" to cast two votes (think snowbirds and students).


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Ruth Johnson's latest ploy is just another in what is becoming a long list of criminal or attempted criminal behavior in the republican party. My grandfather was a staunch republican and he must be rolling over in his grave at the stink that's emanating from Abe Lincoln's grand old party.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

You are supposed to ber a citizen in order to vote so I see nothing wrong with this question. It has nothing to do with being a democrat or a republica. It has to do with proving citizen or non citizen.If the state knows they goofed they should be able to have a list of the false voter cards to check . Making everyone bring their birth certificates to the polls would be a good solution.

Ed Kimball

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

As I noted above, this is just an attempt by the SOS's office to make the voters do work that her office should be doing before they allow people to register. This check should occur when you try to register, not when you vote.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

The Repubs show over and over that the only way for them to remain in power with the changing diversity in our population is to restrict voting and keep those who would tend to vote democratic as far from the ballot box as they can. This is democracy and small government? The only good thing I can say about it is -- when you cannot see the forest for the trees, you do dumb things. This will turn around and bite the Repubs right where they least want it -- at the ballot box. Because they cannot see the lessons of history and do not recognize their own need to adapt, it may not be that long before they become the non-expressive third party after the Tea Party and the Dems. And they can only blame themselves for it. Evolution has shown that those who do not evolve and adapt, disappear over time. Since many Repubs do not believe in evolution, well....


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

How does checking a box restrict voting? Sorry but you've lost me.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Why yes, Virginia, election fraud occurs...see Jase Bolger, Roy Schmidt...


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

I thought the argument against this was that it was unfairly aimed at the poor. BUT as it is stated above that it was to help correct those that were accidently registered WHILE they were getting thier driivers license (and state ID), well if you were already at the Secretary of State to get your ID you were already paying the fee to do so. So you weren't unnecessarily charged a fee to get license just so you could vote. Why do we check IDs and verify to cash a check and not for voting? Is bank fraud somehow more important than voter fraud?

John Q

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Where in the Constitution does it require me to show ID to vote?


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Use an ATM or direct deposit - they don't require a photo ID. You can open a bank account online without one. You can marry without one, divorce without one, apply for social security without one -- in fact any federal benefit without one. Most places that request identification have alternate lists of identification types that include those without photos, often including birth certificates, social security cards, etc. Get educated.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

I am sorry, but I thought one had to be a citizen to vote in any elections. And, I also thought that all had to have photo ID to do so. So how can the Washtenaw County Commission just decided to not abide by what the Secretary of State has requested. This is absurd.

John Q

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

The County isn't required to follow illegitimate requests by the Secretary of State.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

Wrong, photo ID is not required - just plain old identification.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

Not only is the Secretary of State out of bounds she is also out of order when it comes to this issue. This is borderline violation of federal civil rights.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Washtenaw County sucks.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

or stay and hange it and sparty can move


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

Move to Wayne Co.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

Paradoxical Quote of The Day From Ben Stein: "Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured... but not everyone must prove they are a citizen." Now add this, "Many of those who refuse, or are unable, to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens." Think about it when you vote in November !

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Perhaps voters could recite the pledge of allegiance instead. It's considered an even better proof of citizenship if they're not wearing pants at the time.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Not sure I quite get Macabre's point, but the picture it conjures up is hilarious. Kinda hope it happens in my Ward.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

Non-citizens voting in Michigan elections is a problem of truly tragic proportions, ranking just behind the plight of frogs without silk mufflers with winter looming. It's another Republican outbreak of feigned outrage and mock hysteria, like the imposition of Sharia law and the invasion of Lubbock, Texas, by the United Nations.

David Cahill

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

This is a really good decision on the part of our Election Commission!


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Why are the names of the "Washtenaw County Election Commission" hidden? I don't find them in any county directory list and references to meetings are years old. ....this sounds like another liberal slacker group that crawls through the cracks of some bureaucracy and seizes power but can't focus long enough to take meeting minutes. Does anyone have a list of this shadow "Washtenaw County Election Commission" group? VOTERS also demand the names of those who appointed them! They are obviously democrat operatives so those appointing them are trying to encourage voter fraud by proxy. If the Washtenaw Commissioners made this mess, we want NAMES.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

veracity, you don't think big donors are behind obama? you don't think his side spins a yarn of lies? how's that kool-aid?


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:13 a.m.

My, shepard145, this problem rates right up there with all the millionaires and billionaires that are financing Mitt Romney and other Republican shills for them but they will not reveal their names as they subvert the election process by obstructing voting and spreading lies in the media.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Dumb and Dumber Dumb at the Sec of State level and Dumber at the county level.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Why can't we find a list of these little tin pot dictators on the "Washtenaw County Election Commission"? VOTERS want a list of NAMES NOW!


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

Had already given up irony here; now I'm failing at sarcasm. Sorry.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 3:35 a.m.

And it had better be PRINTED in CAPS!


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

The commission is obviously loaded with liberal crank democrats and needs to be replaced. There must also be some way to penalize those who fail to uphold their office as representatives of THE PEOPLE and spit on the rule of law. I would like to see them all in prison, following their full body cavity searches, until after the election.

John Q

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Ask Jim Cramer how voter ID laws can disenfranchise eligible voters.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

I have witnessed voter fraud first hand - you have not idea what you're writing about but plus one to you for memorizing and parroting democrat talking points. ,...even though they can't quite explain why voter ID is actually a burden.

Susie Q

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

There is no voter fraud, this is another way to try to disenfranchise votes that disagree with Ruth Johnson's politics.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

How exactly is this asinine law supposed to help prevent unauthorized people from voting? The whole thing makes no sense. I can't understand how anyone with a brain can actually support it. So what is it supposed to catch, the illegal immigrant who somehow managed to REGISTER to vote, and then not only showed up to vote, but decided to be honest and say that he wasn't actually an american citizen? Seriously, I am all for making sure only the right people vote, but this is just a joke. It makes everyone look bad.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

To CAMBELL : you have to live/bee in the United States for SEVEN years before you/me can apply for CITZENSHIP and get the papers to PROOF IT. Only exception .GOING into the SERVice of the United STATES or being married to a Servicemen ......da

Ed Kimball

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

@yaah: in fact it's not difficult for non-citizens to register to vote, now that the SOS office automatically registers potential voters when they get a driver's license. My non-citizen daughter-in-law received a voter registration after she got a MI driver's license. In fact, Ms. Johnson should change the policies of HER OWN department by asking applicants for a driver's license if they are citizens before offering them voter registration applications. The check-box is an attempt by the SOS to offset an error introduced by the department's own actions.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

This serves to keep illegal voters from casting a ballot in that if they check the box that says they are a citizen and they are not, the election officials now have proof that the illegal voter knew he wasn't legal to vote and did so in spite of the law. Voting illegally is grounds for deportation-and loss of the possibility of gaining citizenship. The stakes are high. But, as we have seen in Minnesota, outright vote fraud (voting illegally) is difficult to prove because , at least in Minnesota, the State must prove not only that they voted illegally but that they KNEW they voted illegally. Because of this little 'fine point', of over a thousand felons in the Minneapolis-St Paul area who voted and were not eligible to vote, they have so far only proven that 250 or so KNEW it was illegal and were convicted. (Convicted felons cannot vote in Minnesota-they can in Michigan once they serve their sentence). If an illegal alien was intending to voting illegally because there was little chance of being caught, now has to check that he is a citizen, he will definitely think twice. To check that one is a citizen when one isnt is tantamount to admitting guilt. Therefore, it reduces the chances of vote fraud. Now, unless you really WANT to promote vote fraud, why would you object to putting an X in a box on the same form where you sign your name? I dont have any problem with vouching for my citizenship . . .do you?


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

There is this guy that I know and he said........ "Johnson should be apprehended IMMEDIATELY and turned over to the proper authorities!!"


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Let's say you are not very fluent in English. You get a green card and a job. You buy a car and go to Sec State Ruth Johnson's office for a driver's license. You get a license and a few days later Ruthie has you registered to vote and you receive a voter's card from your city clerk. You write home: "America! What a country!" put the blame where it belongs. Please follow-up on this story. What does Ruthie have to say about her boo boo?

John Q

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

Nice story but unless your friend can't read, she would have seen the requirement that she be a US citizen on the voter registration card. She has to sign a document to even complete her voter registration form.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I too know a legal resident who got a voter card in the mail, she was happy she would be able to vote, until I messed all up by telling her it would be illegal for her to vote. The idea of checking a box is to let people know they are violating the law, and if they continue to vote prosecutors will know they willingly, and knowingly broke the law.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

I know people who used their foreign passport with a tourist visa stamp to get a new drivers license and that is exactly what happened - the counter gal gave her a voter registration card like they were handing out bubblegum.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

A Secretary of State doesn't have legal authority to add questions to ballots at his or her whim. Even the Governor of the State gave instructions to the contrary that she chose to ignore, but Ms. High and Mighty apparently felt differently. Maybe other questions will appear next time: Are you black? Christian? Pregnant? Insured? Healthy? Employed? Unbelievable.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

ALL those question sound like my LANDLORD...etetc


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

You might at least be honest in your argument! Are you black? Christian? Pregnant? Insured? Healthy? Employed? Are those dis qualifiers to voting?? NO If she has overstepped her authority ignore her. BUT don't throw out ridiculous statements!


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Besides asking if pregnant, healthy, etc, someone who tried to do that without legal authority might also ask if someone or their partner uses contraception.

Superior Twp voter

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Come one, come all! Especially the disenfranchised, poor, minority, non-citizens, ballot box stuffers, Dems need your vote.

Basic Bob

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

All the secret Canadians will be voting against the Maroun amendment.

Tom Todd

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

the repubs just have to wait until one hour after voting starts to have faux news declare Romney the winner.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Sure, because including the box actually has a chance of tripping up fraudulent voters. After all, someone willing to cast a vote illegally couldn't bring himself to lie about his citizenship, could he?


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Good news for those who would feel intimidated by having to check off a box. I wonder how they are going to fill out there ballot since last I checked you needed to check off one of those intimidating boxes to vote for anyone...........They must really be intimidated when they have to show ID to use their credit card, buy alcohol, or get pulled over by the police. I think we should make it so the police have to guess who we are and after three tries we don't get a ticket if they can't............ :-)

Unusual Suspect

Sun, Sep 16, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Intimidated by checking a box? Such drama! How does a person so easily intimidated ever manage to cross a busy street or decide which of the 50 varieties of toilet paper to buy at the grocery store? It must be such a horrible existence.


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

Both Germany and Canada require photo ID to vote.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

Where in the article or comments is it suggested that counties don't want to include the box because they think it intimidates voters? Your straw man has blown over.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

The Secretary of State decided she would unilaterally impose a requirement on voters that is not required by law. Even Governor Snyder ordered her to cease and desist. Good for the County Election Commission for rejecting Republican dirty tricks.

Ed Kimball

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

@HB11: What you say is true, but there is no evidence that non-citizens are in fact voting. And if you WERE a non-citizen who wanted to vote, would you admit you were not a citizen by checking a non-citizen box on the ballot?


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Citizenship IS a legal requirment for a person to vote.


Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

Dont like a law....just ignore it...


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

The GOP way!


Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 7:14 a.m.

Snyder vetoed the law, it's Johnson who is acting like she cn just make them up.

Tom Todd

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

why do we have laws? are they just for the poor?

Basic Bob

Sat, Sep 15, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

We have laws to rationalize putting minorities in prison.