As polling closes in Ann Arbor, voter turnout downtown hovers around 1,000 in each precinct, despite long lines

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 5:49pm

Students wait in line on the stairs to vote in the Michigan Union Tuesday. The line extended from the first floor, down the stairs and across the ground floor.

Students wait in line on the stairs to vote in the Michigan Union Tuesday. The line extended from the first floor, down the stairs and across the ground floor. Buy this photo
Amanda Allen/Daily

 

Many students are facing long wait times to vote as lines snake through University buildings with peak waits of up to two hours, and both state election limitations or higher than usual voter turnout could be factors.

At 8:00 p.m. when the polls closed, 1,200 people had voted in Ward 1 Precinct 1 and 868 people had voted in Ward 1 Precinct 4 at the Michigan Union; at the Michigan League, 1,067 people had voted in Ward 3 precinct 1 and 1,137 people had voted in Ward 3 precinct 2. As of Tuesday afternoon, wait times were estimated at 40 minutes for Ward 3 precinct 2 and over 90 minutes at Ward 1 precinct 1. Since then, wait time at the League’s precincts has dropped to about 10 minutes. At 8:00 p.m. at the Union, the lines were empty. 

Engineering junior Karen Xiong said she was  frustrated with the long voting lines on Election Day, adding if she had more classes today she may not have waited to vote.

“I think the waiting times are ridiculous and they should even it out more, because I've heard people saying other places don't really have lines,” Xiong said. “Honestly, if I had more classes today, I probably wouldn't have waited this long.”

LSA freshman Lauren Chapman also said she had been in the line for Ward 1, Precinct 1 for about a half an hour around 5 p.m. She said she was not going to leave and come back, but wait - even though she said organizers told her the wait would be two hours due to incorrect districting this year.

"I debated not voting just because of the wait," Chapman said. "I don't think anyone wants to wait in this line, especially because in Ward 4, there's no line, so that's super frustrating."

A third student, Engineering sophomore Andrew Kruper said he got to the polls around 4 p.m. At the time of his interview with the Daily, he had been waiting an hour. He said he expected to wait at least two hours total with what poll officials were telling students waiting in line.

"(The election process) has been really annoying to hear about for the past year and a half, but it's almost over," Kruper said, highlighting that though the wait was long, he was enthusiastic to vote and see the results later in the evening.

Ecology and evolutionary biology professor Meghan Duffy also expressed concern on Twitter over the long lines at the Michigan Union, even though it was not her polling place.

“Very long voting lines at Michigan League,” Duffy tweeted. “Student leaving said she waited an hour to vote but line is now twice as long.”

Contrary to what other election officials at polling places may have announced to voters, Jim Wessel Walker, Precinct Chairman in Ward 1, Precinct 1 said the delay in voting was not due to an Ann Arbor ordinance, but rather due to a lack of preparation for the high number of voters.

“It’s not a city ordinance or anything like that, it’s just that’s how many electronic poll books. The hang up is the poll book. We’re issuing about one ballot a minute with our two poll books.”  

A poll book is the machine that reads and records ballots.

Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor said the two e-poll book limitation is not unique to Ann Arbor.

“I do not have firsthand information, but my understanding is that it is a state limitation,” Taylor said.

Walker, who worked at the polls in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, both of which he said have never been this busy. Walker attributed these large voter turnouts to rumored adjustments in Ann Arbor precincts and extensive voter registration efforts.

“Personally, I think it’s because they built two new dormitories in this precinct since 2012,” Walker said. “I’m guessing that there are a lot more voters living in this precinct since they built North Quad and the graduate residence. I also think there has been a very effective registration drive...I have heard that they did redistrict a bit to try to even things out, but I just think we didn’t get it quite even.”

“I have to say, I don’t think we expected this many voters,” Walker added.