The Rapidian Home

Need help filling out your ballot? VOTE411 is here to help.

Get help completing your ballot.

I received my mail-in ballot but now I need more information.

Register to vote

Register to vote /Eric Tank

For those who identify with one party or another, voting a "straight ticket" simplifies things quite a bit. However, even straight ticket voters may find themselves scratching their collective heads when it comes to non-partisan races like judges and board candidates that have no clear party affiliation. Some non-partisan candidates run unopposed but for those who don't, how can we find out more about these candidates, not to mention ballot proposals that can confuse even the savviest of voters?

First and foremost, go online to to confirm that you're registered and to LOCATE YOUR POLLING PLACE.  If you're not registered at your current address, you can, in many cases, correct your information online or you can pay a visit to your local clerk to fix any errors. One of the best ways to research candidates and ballot proposals is to make use of non-partisan voter information sites like and  These sites provide non-partisan, detailed information about candidates and ballot proposals.  I emailed a few questions to Betsy Cushman, Vice President of Voter Services at The League of Women Voters, the creators of VOTE411, and here are her responses:

Sean Kenny: What is VOTE411 and how can it be helpful?

Betsy Cushman: The website, launched in 2006 by the national League of Women Voters, serves as a one-stop-shop for nonpartisan election information and responses to relevant questions for federal and state races and ballot proposals. also assists voters in finding their polling locations, hours and learning about candidate forums. The website has added important resources on how to navigate elections during the COVID-19 pandemic and is also available in Spanish.

SK: Do you have any recommendations on how to learn more about non-partisan judges?

BC: The Michigan Supreme Court is unique. Judges are nominated by political parties and run on the nonpartisan section of the ballot, which voters may not know. This fall there are 7 candidates running for 2 openings. lists which party nominated the candidate, as well as each candidates’ answers to the same questions.The District Court of Appeals candidates are on the ballot but the candidates are running unopposed. Voters can choose to vote for them, or not. There are Circuit Court, Probate Court, and District Courts candidates on the ballot as well. Many are running unopposed, but Circuit Court non-incumbents (meaning they are not currently Circuit Court judges) are often opposed. Go to for information on the judges before you vote. Sometimes there are Candidate Forums online which can be very helpful, if handled in a nonpartisan way.

In regard to ballot proposals, many voters feel unqualified to properly interpret the often complex language in the proposals. Do you have any suggestions for better understanding the true meaning of and implications for the proposals? Is there a simple way to identify key endorsers? includes information about Michigan’s 2 ballot proposals, including what a YES vote means and what a NO vote means. More information is included in Ballotpedia online, including the organizations which support the proposal, if any, as well as the opposing organizations, if any. A detailed explanation of the ballot proposals is also available on the Citizens Research Council of Michigan’s website,

SK: Because of the current administrations repeated and unproven statements about “mail-in voter fraud” and postal slow-downs, do you have any advice for voters who feel uncertain about whether to vote by mail or in-person?

BC: Voting is safe and secure in Michigan. The League of Women Voters encourages voters to vote early by absentee ballot, and to return their ballots personally to their local clerk’s office or election drop box. If they mail in their ballots using the U.S. Postal Service, mail the ballot by Oct. 19. After that, we encourage voters to personally deliver their ballot to the local clerk’s office or drop box. Voters have options to vote absentee from home, or to vote in person in their clerk’s office or at a satellite location. Many people are already voting, as clerks are opening extra hours to vote and providing satellite locations.

As helpful as the aforementioned websites are, they do not cover local-city proposals and amendments.

For example, Grand Rapids residents must decide how to vote on two amendments this year. One will change all city elections to even numbered years and the other will require that city candidates must compete in the general election regardless of how many votes they garner in the primary. These proposals are, according to my research, causing a fare amount of confusion and consternation amongst voters. What is a responsible voter to do?

This author recommends the following approach:  First, do online research. I quickly and easily found several informative news articles about both proposals which included resources and names of key players.  Next, try to find opposing points of view and look for more than one source. Finally, reach out to your community including family, friends, and neighbors. Many of us know someone who is more politically savvy and plugged-in than we are. Reach out and ask their opinion. Also, ask for the opinion of people with whom you generally DISagree.  It's good for the reasoning process to learn what both sides have to say. Finally, if you haven't already, take a look at the individuals and organizations that proposed the amendments in the first place. Ask yourself, what is their agenda and who supports them?  Often, those details can help you make a much more informed decision. It takes a little extra effort to discover the information you need, but the experience can be rewarding and helps build community.

When Thomas Jefferson said that an informed electorate is the pre-requisite for a functioning democracy, what he didn't tell us is that getting informed requires a bit of homework.  Happy voting y'all!

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.