Though Ann Arbor residents elected new and incumbent local leaders yesterday, University students had little to do with the results.
University residence halls and off-campus buildings that served as precincts saw low student voter turnout yesterday for Ann Arbor City Council elections. Only seven voters cast ballots at the Michigan Union — Precinct 4-1 — which is a student-heavy precinct. Other precincts heavily comprised of students reported totals ranging from three to 65 voters. According to poll workers, election years that do not have national or state candidates on the ballot — like this year — notoriously attract a small voter base.
Eric Sheie (R), city council candidate for Ward 4 who was not elected, said he was shocked by the lack of student participation in the election and would like to help increase student voter turnout in the future.
“It’s a shame (students are) not more involved,” Sheie said in an interview after the election. “There should have been a lot more people voting. Period.”
No voters showed up to the voting booths at Palmer Commons before 3 p.m. yesterday, according to Precinct 2-2 Chair Stacia Zellner. Zellner said she was disappointed that no one had come to cast a vote because local elections are important.
“It’s sad,” Zellner said. “I would like to see more people come out, but unfortunately we can’t do much about that at this point.”
She added that she didn’t expect to see more students show up to vote. In fact, only three people had cast ballots at the precinct by the end of the day.
Precinct 1-1 Co-Chair James Wessel Walker, said he was not surprised by the low student voter turnout considering it largely depends on the type of election. For state and national competitions, voter turnout is much higher than for local elections.
“There’s not much to attract attention (in off-election years),” Wessel Walker said.
As of 2:30 p.m. yesterday, 12 people had cast votes at Precinct 1-1’s voting location in the Michigan Union. The University typically expects about 1,200 voters for presidential elections, according to Wessel Walker.
LSA sophomore Hannah Duke voted yesterday at the Union. She said she believes voting is important, even in the off years, and is disappointed with how few of her fellow students showed up to the polls.
“I think government on all levels is important,” Duke said.
At 2:30 p.m., almost eight hours after the polls opened, Duke was the second person to cast a ballot at the Union. Despite her disappointment, Duke said she understands why students don’t vote in local elections.
“I wasn’t really aware that there was an election today until the last couple days,” Duke said. “It doesn’t seem there’s much hype about local elections, and so students just don’t really care about them.”
Engineering junior Amy Langhorst said she feels that as a citizen she has a responsibility to vote. She voted yesterday because there were proposals on the ballot — like those that had to do with street and sidewalk improvements — that are important to her and would affect her life.
“I guess I feel like a civic duty to go vote whenever there’s an Election Day, even if I don’t necessarily know all the candidates,” Langhorst said. “I try to find out as much as I can beforehand and go make an informed decision.”
While precinct chairs on campus said they attempted to speculate why students don’t vote, they could not come up with a concrete answer.
“I’m not sure if they just don’t know about (the elections) … (or) if it’s an issue of them being registered where they are from,” Zellner said. “I have not had anybody here to actually ask them.”
Despite the low voter turnout among students, precinct chairs said they are still motivated to work at the polls on Election Day.
John Yodhes, chair of Precincts 3-1 and 3-2 at the Michigan League, is a former teacher.
“So I feel it’s kind of a civic responsibility,” he said.
LSA and Engineering senior Daniel Smolkin said he does not believe people should feel required to vote.
“I don’t think it’s really a duty for students here to vote here … It’s their choice,” Smolkin said.
— Daily Staff Reporter Jennifer Lee contributed to this report.