As temperatures dropped to the low 40s, over a hundred students and local residents stood in line — bundled up with blankets and cradling cups of hot chocolate — outside the University of Michigan Museum of Art polling station for hours after it officially closed at 8 p.m.
The Ann Arbor City Clerk Satellite Office at UMMA opened on Sept. 27 and remained open until the last voter of the night, Rackham student Erik Pedersen, cast his ballot at 2:05 a.m. after waiting in line for 6 hours.
“I was teaching my classes and I didn’t have time (to vote) at any point during the day,” Pedersen said. “I saw the line out here and I felt I had to make the effort to get out here and I got in line just in time as they were closing the doors.”
As a speaker radiated music between the campus buildings next to the Diag, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and eagerness from the students lined up outside, despite the late hour. Pedersen said the support from volunteers impacted his decision to wait out the line.
“Everyone’s been very supportive and upbeat,” Pedersen said. “People have been bringing me pizza. This coat and blanket is not mine — somebody gave it to me and everybody’s been very nice so far.”
Kulin Oak, LSA and Business senior, said he joined the UMMA line around 7:30 p.m. and would continue to wait despite the cold weather. As a Michigan resident, Oak said he is taking advantage of same-day registration.
“I know that if I don’t stay in the line, I miss my chance to vote, and I don’t want to let people who have different views than myself vote on policy that’s gonna affect me and my family,” Oak said. “So I want to at least give my best shot at having my voice be heard.”
Oak said he was particularly interested in casting a vote for incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and voting ‘Yes’ on Proposal 3, a ballot initiative that would enshrine the right to an abortion and other reproductive health measures in the Michigan Constitution.
“I’m excited to vote for Whitmer,” Oak said. “I know also with Prop 3 being on the ballot, it’s really important to show support for that. I know that there are things across the ticket, but those are the two main things I was interested in voting (for).”
Public Policy junior Eva Hale, co-president of Students for Whitmer, said she has been at the UMMA polling location since 11 a.m. to support those waiting in line in the cold. She said volunteers from all around the city came to the line throughout the day to donate blankets and food.
“We’re really just trying to make sure people are okay in line,” Hale said. “We have a ton of pizza, loads of blankets and we’re giving people snacks.”
As the end of the line slowly crept closer and closer to the UMMA entrance, Hale stood on the grass field outside the building collecting and folding blankets with around a dozen other volunteers. Multiple community members credited the support to social media posts from Washtenaw County Democratic Party chair Chris Savage. Hale said the remaining blankets and food will be donated to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County at the Delonis Center as well as Miller Manor, both local homeless shelters.
Molly Ging, a longtime Ann Arbor resident, said she had been at the UMMA location volunteering for over two hours after seeing Twitter posts about how long students had been in line. As a mother in Ann Arbor, Ging said these posts inspired her to come out and support students waiting in the cold.
“When that bat signal was sent out, all my mom friends came out with food and hand warmers,” Ging said. “If we hear they’re hungry and cold, we will be there.”
Ann Arbor resident Julia Hale said she had been offered blankets, hand warmers, pizza, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, chocolate, granola bars, cheese, tea, coffee and hot chocolate while she was waiting to vote. She said at some point, a volunteer was walking around taking orders from prospective voters about what they needed.
“I’ve gotta see it through; I have to see it through,” Julia Hale said. “I’ve been out here for like two hours now. I just feel like our country is in a really fucked up place…. I believe in doing my part for harm reduction.”
Ann Arbor resident Zachary Storey said he follows the Ann Arbor City Council and heard from others in the community about the lines at the University. Arriving at the event with more blankets in tow, Storey, who voted at the Ann Arbor Public Library location earlier in the day, said the turnout among student voters sends “a clear message” that young people care.
“I just would like to encourage students to just continue your civic involvement,” Storey said. “Get curious about city council, get curious about the county commission, and there’s a lot of local things that your voice can really make a difference (in), especially at the city level. In my opinion, I don’t think the city does really well at reaching out to students. But if students speak up, that’s going to be a voice that isn’t usually heard, but people will listen.
Julia Hale said she procrastinated registering to vote when she recently moved back to Ann Arbor after college, so she joined the line at UMMA at 7:45 p.m. to register and vote at the same time.
“I just felt like this election was too important to not vote in,” Julia Hale said. “I just don’t want to take any risks. I feel like every vote counts, and I strongly believe in harm reduction. So I want to do my part.”
Julia Hale said she was inspired to wait in the line because she believes there is a lot of work that can be done for the country, and voting is an important part of that.
“I think that maybe if I were out there doing organizing work and all that other stuff, I wouldn’t feel like my vote counted as much, but I don’t have time for that in my life right now,” Julia Hale said. “So I think what I do have time for is waiting in line, so I can do that, and I’m doing it.”