The Chronicle will be spending this primary election day visiting as many of the 30 polling places in wards 1, 4 and 5 as we can – those are the wards in which city council races are being contested this year among Democrats.
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Polls are open until 8 p.m. We’ll report results as we hear about them, filed on The Chronicle’s Civic News Ticker.
If you see us out and about, give a shout. We’ll shout back. The fun starts after the jump.
7:30 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 6: Cobblestone Farm (2781 Packard). Incumbent Margie Teall is greeting early voters. She reports that upon arrival, she found that signs for her campaign and for mayor John Hieftje had been moved into the middle of the nearby baseball field. She moved them back to the polling place entrance. A woman walking past says she voted for Teall and Hieftje, saying they were the “voice of reason and stability” – she liked how things were going with the city, and didn’t see any reason to change.
Jennifer Hall, housing manager for the city/county Office of Community Development, arrives – she says she’s there “just as a member of the voting public.” A man wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt emerges from the polling place, located inside Cobblestone Farm’s main building. He says that any morning is a good one when it starts with the democratic process. Teall reveals that she was a huge Pink Floyd fan in high school and college. Rock on.
It’s worth noting that Cobblestone is the only polling place, at least to The Chronicle’s knowledge, where you can also find pigs rolling in mud, chickens and goats.
7:45 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 2: Bach School (600 W. Jefferson). Voted as number 32. City attorney arrives as part of his election day inspection tour.
8:05 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 5: St. Clare Church/Temple Beth Emeth (2309 Packard). It’s sprinkling now, and people are walking briskly from their cars to the polling place. One volunteer from Ned Staebler’s campaign for state representative is handing out literature. When she offers it to a voter who’s passing by, he says “I know who he is – that family goes back a long way here.” He doesn’t indicate whether he’s a supporter. The volunteer reports that she’s been out since 6:30 a.m. Another Staebler volunteer back at Cobblestone Farm had been out since 4 a.m., walking the district with about a dozen others to hang campaign literature on doorknobs.
One voter tells us she voted for Teall and Hieftje because she likes their positions on issues. Another voter later reports our encounter on Twitter. It doesn’t appear that anyone is using the small St. Francis of Assisi chapel to reflect on their decisions.
8:15 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 1: Ann Arbor District Library (343 S. Fifth). Stephen Ranzini is standing on the correct side of 100-foot line wearing a Jeff Irwin button on his tie. Ken Nieman, the library’s associate director, comes out to remove campaign signs from the library flower boxes on the William Street side of library building. That’s not the public right of way, he says. Signs in the tree pits survive.
8:30 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 1: Michigan Union (530 S. State). Dead pants. Two voters so far.
8:35 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 3: University of Michigan Coliseum (Fifth & Hill). The sound of a jackhammer comes from the vicinity of the nearby Fingerle Lumber yard. You can hear it from inside the polling place because the doors and windows are wide open – there’s no air-conditioning here, and it’s hot. One poll worker says that in the winter, they bring duct tape to put around the window frames to keep the cold air out. So far, 32 people have voted. No one is using the exercise equipment that’s crammed into the room.
One poll worker describes the Mary Street polling place, which he says is used as an aviary when not set up for voters. It’s only a few blocks away and is worth a look, he says.
8:50 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 2: Mary Street Polling Place (926 Mary St.). Upon arrival at Mary Street, we encounter half of the six people who’ve voted so far. They include Julie Weatherbee and Bob Droppleman, who help fill us in on the history of the small, ivy-covered building – it’s the only remaining city polling place that is still in use for its original purpose. When not used on election day, it’s rented to the Bird Center of Washtenaw County – Weatherbee says they brought a baby robin there once. The bird folks have to clean the room before election day, and poll worker Tom Bletcher reports that you can smell the bleach.
Later, Weatherbee sends us a photo of a note she’d described during our conversation, reflecting the bird/voter cohabitation.
9:30 a.m. Ward 1, Precinct 3: Community High School (401 N. Division): Ten voters so far, but none of them in sight. A city clerk staffer drops off absentee voter ballots for scanning. There are no separate AV counting boards this cycle. Unrelated to that, a poll worker does a few quick tap dancing steps – in sneakers, but you can tell he knows what he’s doing.
The clerk staff reports several humidity-related issues citywide with voting machines. The humidity makes the paper ballots “puff up.” She also reports 16 voters at the Community Center where she’s just dropped AV ballots. Election staff commence feeding AV ballots into machine. There are six ballots. Always heartening to see democracy unfold inside the walls of “Commie High.”
11:15 a.m. Ward 1, Precincts 5 & 6: Northside Elementary (912 Barton Drive). It’s hot in the school gym, where two precincts are handling voters. A poll worker from Precinct 6 says that for as long as anyone can remember, the precinct tables had been in the same spots – until this year. Precinct 6 was told to set up in the former location of Precinct 5, and vice versa. No one there knows why. As he’s relating this fact, a voter walks in and stops by the table. As she overhears his description, she says, “Oh, I’m over there, then!”
Because it has more full-time residents – as opposed to students – Precinct 5′s turnout is higher: 97 voters at this point, compared to 76 for Precinct 6. Those tallies include 51 absentee ballots that have been counted for Precinct 5, and 32 for Precinct 6.
Upon hearing that we’re headed to Arrowwood next, a poll worker says, “Tell Bill that Phyllis says hello!” Her husband works the poll there: “He’s the cute guy with his slippers on.”
11:35 a.m. Ward 1, Precinct 10: Arrowwood Hills Community Center (2566 Arrowwood Trail). We’re momentarily flummoxed – no one here is wearing slippers. Bill is identified and reports that he didn’t bring slippers today – his brown shoes look plenty comfortable, though. There’s air-conditioning here, and a Foosball table, but no one is playing. They’ve had 151 voters so far, plus about 55 uncounted absentee ballots. Mayoral candidate Patricia Lesko had voted there earlier.
A young girl, maybe 7 years old, walks in with some adults. A poll worker asks if she’ll be voting today. When she shyly shakes her head no, he says they’ll give her an “I Voted!” sticker anyway.
11:55 a.m. Ward 1, Precinct 9 and Ward 2, Precinct 6: Clague Middle School (2616 Nixon). Another hot school gym. Standing on the sidewalk outside the school is Ward 1 city council candidate Sumi Kailasapathy and a volunteer with her campaign, along with a worker from the Pam Byrnes state Senate campaign. As we’re talking, the Byrnes campaigner gets a call on his cell phone – it’s a redirect from a robocall that started Monday afternoon. Callers get an automated message saying the Democrat Byrnes is being supported by Republican Dick DeVos. The message asks them to press a number to register their objection – and the call is then redirected to one of Byrnes’ campaign staffers. The worker reports he’s had dozens of calls starting Monday around 4 p.m. While we’re there, he gets three more.
Turnout is heavier here: 201 voters in the Ward 1 precinct, including absentee ballots. For the Ward 2 precinct, there have been 128 walk-in voters, plus roughly 80 absentee ballots that hadn’t yet been counted. Kailasapathy says her campaign has registered a lot of new voters, and that they’ve seen a strong showing from the ward’s Chinese residents. A fire truck rolls up and two firefighters get out to chat with Kailasapathy and her campaign volunteer.
12:25 p.m. Ward 1, Precinct 7: University of Michigan Pierpont Commons (2101 Bonisteel). You have to walk past a sushi bar to get to this polling place, and though there are dozens of students in the dining area of this north campus building, we encounter no one in the walk down the long hallway to get to the room. Here, there have been only 11 voters so far, plus another 11 absentee ballots. Poll workers reminisce about the crush of lines they had during the November 2008 presidential election. Until this year, the polling place was located at Bursley Hall, a student dorm. Earlier this year, university officials asked the city to move its polling places out of the dorms, citing security concerns.
One of the polling workers remembers a talk The Chronicle gave to the Elderwise program a year ago. She asks if we still think there’ll be another daily print newspaper in Ann Arbor within the next five years. Did we say that? Yes, we did. Another poll worker offers that maybe The Chronicle will be such a publication. You never know.
1 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 3: Second Baptist Church (850 Red Oak Drive). An apparent newcomer to the state opens with the question: “Does this state have open primaries?” He wants to know if he needs to be registered to vote as a member of a particular party in order to participate. The answer: No, he doesn’t. Also, there’s a slight alarm at needing to “apply” to vote. Assurance is given that the application form is separated from the paper ballot.
Poll workers are handling a spoiled ballot from someone who apparently accidentally filled in votes for both primaries. The voter must fold it in half and place it in a special envelope, then re-try with a new ballot. Voting is a success.
Poll workers are “keeping their wits sharp during lulls” by plotting the extermination of the flies, which are buzzing about. One poll worker issues an edict that the flies should be caught but not killed. A cup is located. Around 90 people – but no insects – have voted so far.
1:15 p.m. Ward 5, Precincts 4 & 5: Slauson Middle School (1019 W. Washington). Jeff Irwin, who’s running for state representative, and Lou Glorie, a city council candidate, are both greeting voters in the parking lot, standing in the direct sun. Irwin says the work to place door hangers on homes went through the night last night. He’s being judicious with his time on election day, allocating time for polling locations for the morning, noon, and evening “rush,” but continuing to knock on doors at other times.
He greets a voter, who tells him that she thinks we’ll get good representation with either him or with his opponent, Ned Staebler. Irwin says he’s not there to say anything bad about Ned. The voter says she’s not heard Ned say anything bad about him, either, and that it’s been a good campaign.
Inside the polls, the first question to voters causes some to hesitate: “5-4 or 5-5?” The precinct maps on the wall help solve the problem.
3:15 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 11: Forsythe Middle School (1655 Newport). There’s a steady flow of voters here – 358 have come through in person, plus 163 absentee ballots so far. One man asks if he can walk around the school a bit. He says he was a student there when it was MYA – after he gets the OK to take a stroll down the hall, someone asks, “What’s MYA?” They’re told by another voter that it stands for Middle Years Alternative. The man returns and says, “I don’t recognize anything.” It’s apparently been remodeled. We wonder if he recognizes the image of Lúthien Tinúviel that’s been painted on the wall.
A couple walks in. The poll worker looks at their matching last names and jokes, “Do you two know each other?” The woman replies: “57 years as of Aug. 14 – if he makes it!” They both look hale and hearty.
It’s a sign of veteran poll workers that several of them have thick seat cushions for their metal chairs. One worker says that by 5:30 p.m., “it really makes a difference.” They’ve also brought snacks – in this case, fresh green beans from one of the worker’s gardens. She offers one to her co-worker. “No thanks,” he says. “I’m driving.” She then offers some beans to The Chronicle. We gratefully accept the crudité .
3:40 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 9: Haisley Elementary School (825 Duncan). The trash can in the lobby of Haisley is littered with crumpled campaign literature – Warren, Irwin, Staebler – plus some empty coffee cups and the backs of those “I Voted!” stickers. There have been about 250 voters, plus another 75 or so absentee ballots.
Some kids arrive with their moms, and get a little rambunctious. A poll worker tries to divert their attention to a tank of goldfish. The children aren’t much interested, but The Chronicle is. The aerator is a skull that opens its mouth to release air bubbles. Nice.
4 p.m. Ward 1, Precinct 8: Skyline High School (2552 N. Maple). It’s a long walk from the parking lot to the school entrance, up some stairs to the second level then down a long hallway to Skyline’s cafeteria. We encounter Marianne Rzepka, The Chronicle’s garden columnist who’s working the polls. She reports that 336 people have voted, including absentees.
One voter is ready to insert her ballot into the voting machine when she’s told that you can’t vote in both the Democratic and Republican primary. “Who’s idea is that?” she says. “I’d rather not vote!” After some discussion, poll workers suggest that they “spoil” her ballot (the term used when the ballot is voided). They tell her she doesn’t have to vote for every race, and that is enough to convince her to vote again, picking just one of the parties. “I’m not a party person,” she says.
4:40 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 10: Abbot Elementary School (2670 Sequoia). Yet another stuffy school gym – this one has skylights, and sun in streaming in. One of the election workers is sitting on the floor, processing absentee ballots. They’ve counted 272 votes so far.
A voter brings in an absentee ballot she’s completed, hoping to turn it in. She’s told she can’t do it there – it has to go directly to the city clerk’s office. But they offer to “spoil” the ballot so that she could just vote in person while she’s there, and she agrees.
Five o’clock approaches, and things pick up – there’s actually a line of people waiting to vote, for the first time in all the polling places we’ve visited.
Outside, a worker for Jeff Irwin’s campaign looks tired and hot, but remains upbeat. He’s wearing an Irwin T-shirt, with another, non-political one slung over his shoulders. He has to put it on over his campaign shirt whenever he goes inside to check polling numbers. He said they’ve been heartened by the turnout in the precinct, but acknowledges that it’s a tight race, and it will be a long night.
7:00 p.m. With an hour of voting left, that’s over and out for The Ann Arbor Chronicle from the polls. Now for a quick rest before collecting up results.
Results for elections: