Today The Chronicle crew will be filing reports from a sampling of polling places throughout the city of Ann Arbor, to give readers a sense of what’s happening around town on election day. We’ll update this report in chronological order – most recent material at the bottom.
For those of you still researching candidates, here’s a link to The Chronicle’s coverage of 2010 general election races. Another useful resource is Publius.org – type in your name and some additional information, and the site serves up a sample ballot with links to news articles, financial reports and other details about the candidates and ballot issues. And if you’re not sure where your polling place is located, check this Secretary of State site to find it.
And we’re off – see you at the polls.
7:10 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 2 (Bach Elementary School, 600 W. Jefferson): It’s 22 degrees, and still dark out. Polls have just opened – election workers report that more than 20 people were lined up waiting to vote at 7 a.m. There’s still a short line as voters wait to get their ballot, including one woman who’s brought her dog, who appears bemused. Things are running fairly smoothly, except for one jammed ballot that is quickly remedied.
Across the street from this polling location, Jefferson Market is still closed – it opens at 8 a.m. It’s probably missing some early-morning election coffee business. Certainly The Chronicle would be a customer.
7:50 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 9 (Lawton Elementary School, 2550 S. Seventh St.): Voters are coming through the door about one per minute, many clutching thermoses or cups of coffee. Query to The Chronicle – sitting here in a child-size chair working at a child-size table: “Are you still trying to figure out the trustees?” It’s an quip that’s likely an allusion to the length of the ballot. Cyclist arrives, eschews locking up. He took 7 minutes, 43 seconds to vote – measured in and out the door to Lawton, and included a quick question from The Chronicle: Why not lock up? Answer: It’s a cheap bike and it’s 7 a.m. in the morning.
8:05 a.m. Ward 3, Precincts 1 and 2 (Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave.): Tables for two precincts are side-by-side in the first-floor hall of this University of Michigan building – tight quarters. Precinct 2 serves mostly residential voters. More of them are starting to show up. A poll worker for Precinct 1, which has predominately student voters, reports that five people have voted during the first hour. “You guys need a break!” quips John Yodhes, Precinct 1 chair.
The polls for Precinct 1 used to be located in East Quad, a UM dormitory. Students would often vote in their pajamas, Yodhes said. But when the university decided to move polling places out of the dorms for security reasons, the dynamic changed. Now, students typically come in clusters, between classes.
To pass time, poll workers – including a woman who identifies herself as a grandmother and who’s wearing a sweater vest with an American flag on it – talk about the recent Bob Dylan concert. They agree that his singing was unintelligible.
8:33 a.m. Ward 4, Precinct 7 and Ward 5, Precinct 7 (Dicken Elementary School, 2135 Runnymede Blvd.): School administrative and teaching staff work today at Ann Arbor Public Schools, even though classes are not held due to the election. Smells like breakfast in the media center. On Friday in the media center, it’s Third Grade Movie Night: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Perhaps relevant to the recent discussion of John U. Bacon’s column on high school mascot names, the Dicken Elementary kids compete as Dolphins.
Jack Eaton, who contested the Democratic nomination for Ward 4 city council, arrives and votes. A voter with a child in tow mis-marks her ballot. Poll workers begin the procedure for officially “spoiling” the ballot – it gets folded in half by the voter and placed by the voter into a special envelope. The voter admonishes the child not to distract her this time.
Overheard as two voters head out the door into the cold: “Did you vote a straight Republican ticket?” Answer: “Absolutely.”
9:15 a.m. Ward 2, Precincts 3 and 4 (Angell Elementary School, 1608 S. University Ave.) Local attorney Dick Soble is leaving the polling place, and stops to chat in the school’s entryway. He reports that he encountered a university student this morning who had no idea it was election day. We ponder how this could be possible, and agree that it’s disheartening.
Inside the polling place, there’s momentary confusion when a voter comes up to the Precinct 3 table and says he’s registered to vote in Ward 3, Precinct 4 – this is a Ward 2 polling location. The chair for Precinct 3, Jean-Pierre Nogues, makes a quick call to check. Good news: the voter is actually registered in Ward 2, Precinct 4 – a polling place just across the room.
Also here is Dave Miller, who’s volunteering as a Republican challenger. When voters approach, he stands behind the table of poll workers as they sign in voters and hand out ballots. He has a clipboard, takes occasional notes and asks clarification questions. During a lull, he asks if we’re the ones writing the election day reports that he’s reading on his Blackberry. We are. That’s cool.
Sue Upton of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation walks in to vote. She mentions how much she liked Myra Klarman’s Halloween photo essay, and introduces us to an exchange student from Kenya who’s here to watch how America votes. That’s cool too.
9:38 a.m. Ward 1, Precinct 4 (Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St.): En route from Dicken Elementary, at Seventh & Liberty, spotted a pickup truck a block ahead festooned with campaign signs for William Campbell, a candidate for Washtenaw Community College trustee. An inspired sprint on the bicycle allows confirmation that it’s Campbell himself.
At the community center, city workers – based out of the Wheeler Center – are measuring and chalking the 100-foot line from the entrance of the polling place. Campaign signs are supposed to be placed beyond that boundary. But several signs are just within the boundary. The workers say they’re not allowed to touch any signs. They go into the polling place and report the issue to the election workers. On departing this location, there are no signs within the boundary – not clear if signs were moved or removed.
Steve Glauberman arrives and votes. He’s geeked about a project his company is working on: What Was There. It allows you to juxtapose a modern streetscape view with historical photographs. Coming soon: the iPhone app for What Was There.
10:25 a.m. Ward 2, Precinct 2 (Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Ave.) A cluster of campaign signs on Washtenaw Avenue, just across the driveway entrance to Palmer Commons, is the only indication that a polling place is here. The drive leads to a parking structure – still no signs. No sign on the doorway to the building, and no sign in the lobby.
A quick check with some university staff at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and we’re directed to the third floor. This is where the Glass House Café is located, and it smells like warm bread. The polling place is in a relatively small room at the opposite end of the building.
Inside, it’s quiet until about 10:10 – classes must be out, and about a dozen students wander in. Many of them have changed their address since they last voted, and have to fill out special forms to indicate their new address. One student reports that she’d just come from the wrong polling place. It turns out that many students there had voted in the last election at Mary Markley Hall, which is no longer a polling location, and there’s been some confusion about where to vote. By around 10:45 a.m., 42 people had voted. A poll worker says that’s about as many people as voted the entire day of the Aug. 3 primary.
On departure, we chat with Yonah Lieberman, a UM sophomore who’s volunteering with the nonpartisan Voice Your Vote commission of the Michigan Student Assembly. He’s stationed near the entrance to the polling location, ready to address any questions or concerns that voters might have. As of mid-morning, he reports that the only questions had been: “Where do I vote?”
10:48 a.m. Washtenaw County building (200 N. Main St.): No voting going on here. But the lower level conference room is where the city of Ann Arbor absent voter ballots are being counted. Sign posted prominently: “Absent Voter Counting Board | Caution: If you enter this room you will be sequestered until 8 p.m.” At least a couple dozen workers are visible behind the glass walls. Among them is local attorney Scott Munzel.
12:37 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 5 (Ann Arbor Assembly of God, 2455 Washtenaw Ave.): The basement of this church is colorful. One cinderblock wall is light green, with a large fanciful tree painted on it. There’s a steady flow of voters here. Allen Leibowitz, a partner with Zingerman’s Coffee, comes in – he’s voter No. 399 out of 1,755 registered voters in this precinct. Can’t tell if he’s impressed.
One voter’s ballot is rejected with the message “overvoted race.” Rather than spoil her ballot and vote again, she chooses to override the ballot – that means all of her votes will be counted except for the race in which she marked too many candidates.
Another voter notices on the registration list that her husband has already voted. She tells poll workers that her vote will cancel out his. “That must be an interesting household,” one worker says.
12:41 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 6 (Eberwhite Elementary, 800 Soule Blvd.): Steady stream of voters, but the line is never more than two deep. Poll worker who’s staffing the voter application station explains to one voter that a picture ID has been a part of the process since fall 2007. He advises each voter that the ballot is two-sided this year. His enthusiasm causes his co-workers to kid him: “You’re too cheery.” His response: “It’s still early.” Their day has nearly eight hours to go.
1:10 p.m. Ward 3, Precinct 3 (Tappan Middle School, 2551 E. Stadium Blvd.): Near the parking lot, two campaign volunteers are stationed – one for county commissioner candidate Yousef Rabhi, the other for Alton Davis, a candidate for state Supreme Court justice. The Alton Davis worker hands over a brochure, but then sees the “I Voted” sticker on my coat and asks for it back. She’s been out here sitting in a lawn chair since 8:30 a.m., and looks cold.
There’s a line of voters in the Tappan cafeteria, where the polling station is located. Two Republican challengers are official observers – they’ve challenged a voter, which triggers a requirement that the voter answer four questions under oath. A poll worker starts by asking the voter to say, “I swear …” The voter pauses: “Can I affirm?” Yes. The four questions ask the voter to affirm that he is a U.S. citizen, over the age of 18 years, residing at his stated address, and that he’s registered to vote. After answering the questions, he asks if his ballot will be invalidated if it turns out that he’s voting in the wrong precinct. Not necessarily, he’s told.
Julie Grand, chair of the city’s park advisory commission, and school board trustee Glenn Nelson both pass through to vote, and stop to chat. Responding to a Chronicle query about how things are going, Nelson says the superintendent search is going well, but he’s concerned about the fiscal year 2012 budget, in the probable absence of federal stimulus funds. It’s a common concern across all taxpayer-funded entities. Grand mentions that her child will be entering the public school system next year.
Addendum to Tappan Visit: Outside of Tappan, Joe Baublis has arrived on his bike, loaded down with campaign signs. The Republican candidate for county commissioner in District 11 also has a bundle of large red stakes strapped to the bike. He pulls one out and pounds it into the ground next to signs for Rick Snyder and Rob Steele – fellow GOP candidates for governor and Congressman, respectively. He then uses an electric screwdriver to affix his hand-stenciled signs to the stake. He tells The Chronicle that tonight he’s driving to Snyder’s election party at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in Detroit, where he plans to dance the Argentine tango with his lady friend. Snyder doesn’t know him, Baublis quips, but he’s hoping to be appointed the Michigan Argentine tango ambassador.
2:20 p.m. Ward 3, Precincts 6 and 9 (Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.): Voting at Scarlett’s school gym is the busiest so far today. Two dozen people are in line to vote in Precinct 9 – about half that number for Precinct 6. There’s even a short line for the special ballot reader for visually-impaired voters. People waiting in line are talking on cell phones, reading the long ballot or just standing. Lots of kids are here with their parents, looking bored. Many residents who walk in are unsure of which precinct they’re in – large maps posted on the wall outline the boundaries. Poll workers are cheerful, but seem a bit frazzled.
In keeping with the school mascot theme, The Chronicle observes six banners hung on one of the gym walls: the Scarlett Roadrunners, Clague Cougars, Tappan Trojans, Forsythe Vikings, Slauson Golden Bears and Ann Arbor Open Pandas.
3:15 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 7 (King Elementary School, 3800 Waldenwood Lane): The school’s hallways have names – walk down Truthfulness Trail, hang a right at Active Listening Avenue and head to the multipurpose room to vote. So far, 472 people have voted out of the precinct’s 2,243 registered voters. There are a handful of voters here now, outnumbered by poll workers and two Republican challengers. Overlooking it all is a banner with the head of the school’s namesake, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., radiating rays of orange, red, blue and green.
3:37 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 8 (St. Paul Lutheran School, 495 Earhart Road): Voter turnout at exactly 400 based on election worker’s congratulatory remark: “You’re voter number 400!” Four, now five, people currently filling out ballots. Two in line at the check-in table. Election workers here have dealt with eight spoiled ballots so far today.
Colorful paper lanterns hang from the ceiling in the voting venue. The public area affords me a great view of the “Precinct Supply Kit.” Contents include: Scotch tape, masking tape, white-out tape, roll of printer paper, paper clips, binder clips, staple remover, rubber bands. There’s more, but determining exact nature of contents would require reaching and rummaging. Now three at check-in and six filling out ballots.
5:38 p.m. Ward 1, Precinct 8 (Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Road): Another Alton Davis volunteer is outside the entrance to Skyline, passing out campaign literature. Two voters approach the building, and one exclaims, “This is a big school!”
As she did during the Aug. 3 primary, Marianne Rzpeka – who writes a gardening column for The Chronicle during the growing season – was staffing the polling station at Skyline. She reported that the fire alarm had gone off there this morning, causing momentary concern over what to do with ballots if they evacuated. It turned out to be a false alarm.
There’ve been 582 voters pass through so far. One of them now in line is Eli Neiburger, associate director of the Ann Arbor District Library. Seeing him inspires us to make one last stop.
6:15 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 1 (Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.): A half dozen people are in various stages of the voting process – 238 people have voted so far, out of roughly 980 registered voters. That’s “uncharacteristically brisk,” says Louis Franklin, precinct chair. Usually turnout is lower for midterm elections, he says.
One voter showed up there only to discover that she needed to vote at the Ann Arbor Community Center polling place on North Main. Franklin asks another worker what bus goes by the center – he’s told it’s the #13. He pulls out his bus schedule and looks up the time for the next departure from Blake Transit Center, across the street from the library. But it’s too late – the bus was scheduled to leave at 6:18, and after 6 p.m. the buses run only once an hour. It would be quicker to walk, Franklin says. He gives her directions, telling her it should take about 15 minutes. But she’s wearing flip flops, and the sun is setting – if she walks, it’s sure to be a cold slog.
Editor’s note: The Chronicle thus ends its field coverage of the polls and takes a brief pause to recharge batteries. Now begins the evening’s scrum for results.