Though the race between incumbent Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix has inspired debate among many University students from Detroit, student voters may not turn out in high numbers because many of them don’t have a way to get to the polls.
Riana Anderson, the president of the University’s NAACP chapter, is from Detroit but is registered to vote in Ann Arbor. She said the NAACP organized carpools to Detroit for the national elections last year but hasn’t received any requests for a transportation service for today’s election.
The NAACP and the all-black Delta Sigma Theta sorority held a discussion Sunday with representatives from each campaign to explore the major issues in the mayoral election. LSA junior Fallon Jenkins said students who attended the event asked questions about Detroit’s public schools and the candidates’ plans for solving the city’s budget deficit.
Jenkins said she had heard of many students who were going to Detroit to vote but that her sorority was not offering a carpool because of a lack of interest.
“Nobody signed up for carpooling.”
Engineering sophomore Temperance Carter, a Detroit resident, said many of her friends will not be voting because they don’t have a mode of transportation. She also said the drive to Detroit takes a lot of time and that many students are not willing to make the trip.
LSA sophomore Jessica Jolly said she will not be voting in the election because she does not have a ride. She said she supports Hendrix because of allegations of Kilpatrick’s misuse of city funds.
Engineering freshman Chris Villerot said he also does not have a way to get to the polls. He said he supports Kilpatrick despite the charges of corruption.
“He might have made some bad decisions, but he tries to keep the city in the hands of the people,” he said.
LSA senior Jennifer Raupp said she is registered to vote in Ann Arbor but stands behind Hendrix. She said Kilpatrick’s focus on the black population of the city has made Detroit more segregated.
“As a white Detroiter, I feel very alienated by that,” she said.
Kilpatrick – who is only 35 – has targeted the youth vote in his campaign and polls better with voters under 40. But students at the University may support Hendrix because of his visit to the University and the efforts of his daughter to campaign on his behalf.
Anderson said Hendrix’s efforts in appealing to students are more impressive than Kilpatrick’s age. She said she was impressed with Hendrix’s founding of Next Generation Detroit, a group that involves young people in the rebuilding of the city.
“He speaks directly toward the need of improvements for Detroit and what part the youth will play in that,” Anderson said.
Carter also said Hendrix made a strong impression on her when she met him during his University visit earlier this year. She said she will be supporting Hendrix in today’s election.
LSA junior Jawuan Miguel Meeks said he will vote for Kilpatrick today. He said the media coverage of the current mayor has been too focused on his downfalls and has not given him credit for his goals and accomplishments.
“I don’t believe in changing horses in the middle of a stream, and I don’t think Kilpatrick has had enough time to accomplish what he has set out to do,” Meeks said. “I am willing to give him four more years to realize this.”
Education junior Matthew Gillery will also be voting in Detroit today. He said he supports Hendrix because of the candidate’s role as a deputy mayor under former Mayor Dennis Archer.
He added that Kilpatrick’s emphasis on housing for the poor will not help to rebuild the city but that Hendrix will focus on bringing new business to Detroit.
“It’s time for us to have a leadership that’s going to look forward and look at innovative ways of bringing business to Detroit,” Gillery said.
Students can find information on their polling sites at www.detroitvoter.info.