During last month’s midterm elections, University of Michigan students waited in lines for hours — with some staying until 2 a.m. — to cast their ballot and make their voices heard. The Daily talked to Ann Arborites who braved the lines through the night to get a glimpse of why the lines were so long and what inspired voters to stay queued hours after they arrived.
For some voters, the convenience of an absentee ballot proved a false promise. To obtain an absentee ballot, voters have to register and then wait to receive their ballots in the mail. The ballots are meant to arrive in time for the election, but this year, some ballots never did.
LSA freshman Zoe Klein, who is from Texas, said she registered to vote there earlier this summer but received letters right before election day saying she hadn’t properly applied for an absentee ballot in time.
“I’m really passionate about Texas politics, and then the day of the election, I got duplicate letters, and they both said that I hadn’t submitted it soon enough,” Klein said. “I didn’t get to (vote), and so that was really upsetting.”
On election day, she decided to try registering to vote in Michigan at the UMMA building. However, once she got there, she said she was deterred by the hours-long line.
“I found out that the wait was seven hours and given that I didn’t even know whether I was going to be able to register in Michigan based on the fact that I was already registered in Texas, (waiting) just wasn’t realistic for me,” Klein said.
The phenomenon of missing ballots affected students outside of the University of Michigan, too. Pittsfield Township resident Andrea Klooster said her sons, who attend Albion College in Albion, Michigan, never received their ballots, even though they applied ahead of the deadline. She said her younger son, Jeremy Klooster, received a letter and believed it was the absentee ballot, but when he opened it a week prior to the elections, he found that it was simply an absentee ballot application.
“By that point, it was way too late to request an absentee ballot,” Klooster said. “Then my older son never received anything at all.”
Klooster said she hopes that Proposal 2, which passed in the Nov. 8 general election, will help prevent missing ballots. Proposal 2 provides voters the right to vote absentee in all elections through one application.
“I think being able to get on a list where they just send you a ballot for each election, rather than having to jump through the hoop of applying for an absentee ballot every single time, will really help,” Klooster said.
Washtenaw County currently offers a Permanent Absentee Voter List which allows residents to receive absentee ballot applications every year.
Public policy professor Jenna Bednar said the line at the UMMA building was the result of people waiting until the last moment to vote.
“I do think some of (the reasoning) is there’s nothing that motivates like a deadline,” Bednar said. “Everybody was thinking, ‘why didn’t they do this last week when there was no line?’”
However, concerning absentee ballots, she said Michigan voters might have not known that they can track their absentee ballots online and check before election day if they are registered as an absentee voter.
“I think one thing that those who designed the UMMA and the Duderstadt (voting) space can say (is), ‘maybe one thing we ought to do is make sure people know that they can track it,’” Bednar said.
However, Bednar said she was proud of the students that were willing to spend up to six hours in line in order to vote on election day.
“I’m hoping that (this year’s elections) build some kind of culture of students voting,” Bednar said. “(I hope) we’ll see this again in 2024 for the presidential elections and in 2026 for the midterm.”
Nursing freshman Emmaleigh Lyon voted prior to election day and wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily that voting early allowed her to avoid a lot of the mishaps and frustrations that other absentee-voting students experienced. However, she said she feels like she missed out on the experience of voting in person on Election Day.
“One thing I would have wanted different in my Election Day … is actually voting in person to get the experience,” Lyon said.
Leading up to Election Day, Lyon said she was worried about sending in her ballot in time and was grateful when her ballot arrived early.
“Something that went really smoothly was being able to receive and submit my absentee ballot with plenty of time before the election,” Lyon said.
LSA freshman Lauren Warner had a similar voting experience, having registered earlier this year and receiving a mail-in ballot to vote in Kent County, Michigan. Warner said she wished there was more readily available information for first-time voters like her on what was on the ballot and what the ballot would look like.
. “I opened the absentee ballot, and I was like ‘oh, there’s actually a lot more that I need to do research on’,” Warner said. “The wording sometimes is very complicated (regarding) what you’re voting for, so maybe that can be a little different.”
Election Day on campus saw a number of events and high energy from first-time voters. The state of Michigan saw record turnout for a midterm election, as demonstrated by the long lines at voting stations across campus on Nov. 8. Klein said she believes it is important for everyone to vote.
“It’s easy to feel like your vote doesn’t matter a whole ton because of the number of people who vote,” Klein said. “But I think voting is really important and making sure that there’s equal access for everyone to vote … is really important.”
Daily Staff Reporter Ji Hoon Choi can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: This article has been corrected to state that Andrea Klooster is a Pittsfield Township resident, not an Ann Arbor resident.