Oakland County Clerk Answers Questions Regarding Presidential Primary

Bill Bullard Jr. explains how Michigan's 'closed primary' on Feb. 28 works.

Today is the Feb. 28 presidential primary, and for the first time, voters will have to choose between a Republican or Democratic ballot. The change has left

On the Oakland County website, County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. tries to clear up any confusion regarding the ballot changes. The following questions and answers are from "Ask Bill," in which Bullard explains why this primary election is different.

Q. I heard I have to declare a party preference in order to vote. Is that true?

A. Not exactly. However, in order to vote in the Republican or Democratic Presidential Primary, you must specify which party’s ballot you are requesting prior to voting.

Q. Does that mean I will always be labeled as a supporter of one party or the other?

A. While not officially registering a voter by party, the record of which primary a voter chooses is part of the public record for a period of 22 months.

Q. Why is this election different?

A. Technically, this is called a Presidential Preference Primary, and it is really a partisan function in a way other elections are not. Some states, like Iowa, hold caucuses to determine how many delegates a candidate for President wins from that state. Many other states have partisan registration when you register to vote. Since Michigan does not, and we have a “closed primary,” local clerks are required to do it this way.

Q. What if I am voting absentee?

A. Absentee voters must check a box indicating which ballot they are requesting on their absentee ballot application or they will not receive a ballot. That is the rule the Legislature has set up.

Q. What if I want to vote on a local issue, but not the Presidential Primary?

A. Several communities also have nonpartisan/separate election questions. These questions will be listed on both party’s ballots, however you may also request a separate nonpartisan ballot to vote in just those races.

Oakland County communities with nonpartisan questions on the Feb. 28 ballot are:

  • City of Auburn Hills
  • City of Clawson
  • City of Pontiac
  • Village of Franklin
  • Ferndale Public Schools

Q. Who will appear on the Presidential Primary ballot for each party?

A. The following presidential primary candidates will be listed on the Feb. 28 ballot. Candidates who have withdrawn from the race remain on the ballot because they withdrew after the deadline. The Democratic Party is holding a caucus on May 5 and will be honoring the results of that contest only.


  • Michelle Bachmann
  • Herman Cain
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Jon Huntsma
  • Gary Johnson
  • Fred Karger
  • Ron Paul
  • Rick Perry
  • Buddy Roemer
  • Mitt Romney
  • Rick Santorum
  • Uncommitted


  • Barack Obama
  • Uncommitted


Correction: The Democratic Party is holding a caucus on May 5.

Jack Lessenberry February 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM
This is not the first time we have had a closed primary. The Democratic caucuses are Saturday May 5, not May 4 as noted here. Jack Lessenberry
Judy Davids February 22, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Thank you Jack. After contacting the Oakland County Clerk's office and the Michigan Democratic Party, we corrected the date.
Deena Kachadoorian February 26, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Because Feb. 28 is not a Democratic Primary, what's the point of choosing a DEM ballot and would DEMS be better served by choosing a separate nonpartisan ballot?
DCC February 28, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Must NOT be a "closed" primary - Santorum has invited (via robocalls) EVERYONE to vote for him. Even those who went to college! Wouldn't it be polite to answer the invitation? ;-}
DCC February 28, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Herb, this cannot be emphasized too much: the Michigan Democratic Party suggested way back that each party hold its own selection mechanism, which would have avoided putting the cost of this statewide election on the backs of Michigan taxpayers. The Republicans refused, and used their majority control of the Legislature and approval by the Republican Governor to "appropriate" $10 MILLION to fund this exercise. They also placed President Barack Obama's name on the ballot, even though the Democrats had given notice that they would self-fund a caucus instead. Given the political games already afoot, Santorum's appeal for Democrats to appear at the polls and request a Republican ballot so they can vote for him just invites Democrats to the polls to do just that. In fact, it mirrors the tactic used by Romney himself in the 1992 Presidential primary, where Willard voted for Sen. Paul Tsongas, saying: "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican." Happy Election Day!


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