DETROIT
01/30/2012 12:35 pm ET

Michigan Presidential Primary 2012: Last Day To Register To Vote

Monday is the last day to register to vote for the upcoming Michigan presidential primary, which will allow Michigan voters to select delegates for the Republican national convention.

The GOP race is still wide open after Newt Gingrich pulled a surprising comeback against Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21. Romney, however, is leading in Florida, where voters head to the primary polls on Tuesday.

Oakland County Republican Party Chairman Jim Thienel told Fox 2 he believes Michigan will play a critical role in selecting the GOP's presidential candiate this year.

"Romney, of course, has a hometown advantage here," Thienel said. "Newt Gingrich is working hard. My concern for Newt and Santorum is that they won't have the money to compete, and I think that's going to be a problem."

Thienel predicted Romney would win the Feb. 28 Michigan primary.

Romney won Michigan in 2008, but a recent EPIC-MRA poll shows his lead here has slipped by 3 percent since Gingrich's win in South Carolina, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The survey of Michigan Republicans found Romney leading with 31 percent compared to Gingrich's 26 percent, trailed by Ron Paul at 14 percent and Rick Santorum at 10 percent. Some 19 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

Last year, Michigan lawmakers moved the date of the primary to Tuesday, Feb 28, which could have an impact on this year's race.

The new date breaks a national GOP rule forbidding the state to hold a presidential primaries before March. Michigan risks losing half its national convention delegates as a penalty.

The current rules also make the primary a technically "closed" process, meaning voters must belong to a specific party in order to participate. But voters merely have to declare a party affiliation when they arrive at the polls, a loophole that has angered some Republicans who worry Democrats and Independents might sneak into the process.

"Any registered voter -- Republican, Democrat, communist -- is eligible," Washtenaw County Republican Bill Bigler said during a debate on the rule change. "We should have a process by which Republicans choose the Republican nominee for president."

Absentee voters must request a specific party ballot for the election. In order to register, a filer needs to be 18-years-old, a citizen of the United States and a resident of a Michigan city or township.

Michigan Democrats will choose their delegates at a May 5 caucus primary.

According to to the Michigan Secretary of State, 1,434,734 people, about 19 percent of registered voters, turned out for the 2008 presidential primaries for both Republican and Democratic candidates.

CONVERSATIONS