The Ann Arbor Chronicle » polls it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Primary Election Day: Aug. 5, 2014 Tue, 05 Aug 2014 10:37:51 +0000 Chronicle Staff As we have for the past few years, The Chronicle will be touring Ann Arbor polling stations on Election Day and providing updates throughout the day. Polls are open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

At 6:30 a.m. the  lawn outside the Slauson Middle School polls was bristling with campaign yard signs just outside the 100-foot limit.

At 6:30 a.m. the lawn outside the Slauson Middle School polls was bristling with campaign yard signs just outside the 100-foot limit.

City of Ann Arbor voters will have a choice of four candidates for mayor in the Democratic primary, all of whom are current members of the city council: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

The Democratic primary also offers voters actively contested races in three of five wards.  The Ward 1 race features one-term incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams. The Ward 2 city council race features Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan. This year’s Ward 3 contest features Julie GrandBob Dascola and Samuel McMullen, who are all competing for the seat that Christopher Taylor is leaving in order to run for mayor.

There are no contested Republican primaries for any of city offices. The winner of the Democratic mayoral primary will face independent Bryan Kelly  in the fall.

For for the countywide judicial races, which are non-partisan, voters have a choice of three candidates for circuit court judge: Pat ConlinVeronique Liem and Michael Woodyard. For probate judge, voters have a choice of five candidates: Jane BassettTamara GarwoodConstance JonesTracy Van den Bergh and recently appointed judge Julia Owdziej. In each of those races the top two vote getters will advance to the November general election.

Not sure where to vote? To find your polling place and view a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Below is a timestamped log of The Chronicle’s observations from the field as we tour the polls. A dynamic map is also provided so that readers can track our progress geographically.

A comment thread is open, so that readers can log their own observations made during their visit to the polls. 

Polling locations indicated in red are those not yet visited. Those locations indicated in green have been visited by The Chronicle. The locations are clickable; a click reveals the field note recorded at that location.



7:13 a.m. 1-10 (Arrowwood Hills Comm Center 2566 Arrowwood Trl.) Don Adams, the Ward 1 council candidate who lives in Arrowwood Hills, arrives just before the polls open here to set up just beyond the 100-foot sign beyond which campaigning can not occur. He plans to stay here all day. “This is my family,” he says. He’s brought rain gear – it’s starting to sprinkle. Inside the polling station, one of the first voters is Eric Sturgis – a campaign worker for incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy. He’s here to vote, but complains that the 100-foot sign isn’t in the right location – it’s too close to the polls. Two poll workers head out to move it.

7:13 a.m. 5-2 (Bach School 600 W. Jefferson St.) Voter number one. One poll worker reports that this is the first time she’s worked the polls in a few years – so it’s her first experience with the electronic poll books. It takes three swipes of my driver’s license to get the computer to recognize it. The only poll greeter here is from the Julia Owdziej campaign.

7:39 a.m. 1-5 and 1-6 (Northside School 912 Barton Dr.) Due to construction at Northside, the polling station has been relocated to a different part of the building. When I arrive, a poll worker is placing more signs to direct voters to the new entrance. Ballot counting machines are acting hinky – one poll worker speculates that it’s because of the humidity. For precinct 1-5, ballots are being put into an emergency ballot bin. A poll worker explains to each voter how ballots will be eventually counted with two inspectors present – one Democrat, one Republican. Also, one voter ends up with two ballots stuck together, and poll workers sort out how to handle that. Jason Frenzel arrives; he’s stewardship coordinator for the Huron River Watershed Council, voting before he heads to work.

7:56 a.m. 1-8 (Skyline High School 2552 N. Maple Rd.) Voter 18 arrives. Worker from the city of Ann Arbor IT department arrives to check that the laptop computer for the electronic pollbook is working properly. Poll workers offer him donuts. Poll greeters at Skyline are two in number – both from the Julia Owdziej campaign. Darren McKinnon, member of the now-completed (last year) North Main Huron River task force, arrives to vote with his family. A voter mis-votes by accidentally voting in both Democratic and Republican primaries. Poll workers go through the spoiled ballot procedure. Voter folds the ballot in half and places it in the envelope designated for a spoiled ballot.

8:09 a.m. 1-9 and 2-6 (Clague Middle School 2616 Nixon Rd.) Got caught in a downpour. Someone who appears to be a campaign worker is standing outside under an umbrella, but his jacket obscures what campaign he’s with. Inside, there are a few voters, but it’s not crowded – even though two precincts are here. So far 21 voters have been through for 1-9. Another 23 people have voted in 2-6. A poll worker is using duct tape to try to hang the American flag on a window. It doesn’t work, and is taken down, folded up and returned to its box.

8:31 a.m. 2-9 (Thurston School 2300 Prairie St.) On leaving Clague, more campaign workers are here – for Don Adams and Veronique Liem. Also, candidate Julia Owdziej is passing out lit. She plans to be there off and on all day. A few blocks away at Thurston, voter 28 is former Ward 2 city councilmember Stephen Rapundalo, with one of his four daughters. He notes that in Canada, where he grew up, turnout is around 90%. Snacks for poll workers include potato chips and oatmeal cookies.

8:41 a.m. 1-4 (Community Center 625 N. Main St.) Correction to previous note about the spoiled ballot. It was spoiled because of overvoting in a judicial race, not cross voting in the primary. On leaving Skyline I ran into Democratic Party chair Mike Henry, who was acting as a poll greeter for the Ward 1 council Don Adams campaign. A poll greeter for Adams’ campaign is here at the Ann Arbor Community Center polling location as well. One voter reports that he’s heard on the radio that turnout is expected to be the worst ever. Voter count here is 24, with three in process.

8:57 a.m. 1-3 (Community High School 401 N. Division) Poll greeter for the Veronique Liem campaign reports that in the last 45 minutes, only one voter has visited the Community High School polling location. The total since the polls opened is five, according the poll workers inside. A text received from a colleague working the polls at the Michigan Union reports that only one person has voted there so far. “We are crushing him!” is the conclusion from the Commie High poll workers.

8:58 a.m. 2-8 (First United Methodist Church 1001 Green Road) Voter 39 comes in with her toddler, a cute tow-headed boy who gets a lot of attention from poll workers. One worker has brought a library book to kill time: “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. The polling station here is in the church sanctuary, with large windows on three sides overlooking a wooded area – perhaps the most bucolic location for voters in the city.

9:20 a.m. 5-1 (Ann Arbor District Library 343 S. Fifth Ave.) Polling location here at the Ann Arbor District Library has been moved for today’s election from the usual location in the lower level – because the elevator is out of commission and is being completely reconstructed. So the polling location is set up on the ground floor towards the south side of the building. The accommodations are a bit crammed amongst the stacks. Poll worker suggests that the outside garden area – with a window onto the polling location – would be a good vantage point. She is right, until it begins to sprinkle. There have been 17 voters at this location.

9:25 a.m. 2-7 (King School 3800 Waldenwood Ln) Outside of FUMC, judicial candidate Connie Jones is standing by her car. As we’re chatting, one of her supporters arrives and gives her a hug. Now at King Elementary, and there’s a steady flow of voters – 49 so far. One voter ventures that the election for mayor will essentially be decided today. A poll worker cautions that political talk is not allowed in the polling place, and points out that this primary will determine the Democratic candidate who’ll be on the ballot in November, running against an independent.

9:40 a.m. 3-1 and 3-2 (Michigan League 911 N. University) Poll workers venture on arrival that they hope I have a crossword puzzle to work on. Two precincts here – one of which has had one voter and the other 12 voters so far. These precincts have high concentrations of students. As I am packing up to leave, another voter arrives.

9:56 a.m. 2-3 and 2-4 (Angell School 1608 S. University) Voter count here is 68 for 2-4 and 12 at 2-3. Poll greeter outside is working for the Liem and the Van den Bergh campaigns. She reports that she went door-to-door canvassing with Liem for the last three presidential campaigns. She ventures that Van den Bergh’s mother is passing out literature on the other side of the school building.

10:00 a.m. 2-1 and 1-7 (Northwood Comm Cntr (Family Housing) 1000 McIntyre Dr.) For the first three hours of election day, fewer than 20 voters have shown up in total at the two precincts here, which are crammed into a relatively small room. The designated public area is on one side of a table set up in the middle of the room. I don’t stay long. There are no campaign workers outside – in fact, I haven’t seen a single volunteer for any of the mayoral candidates at the seven polling stations I’ve visited so far.

10:16 a.m. 2-2 (Palmer Commons 100 Washtenaw Ave.) Just one voter so far. “I am excited about the one,” reports one poll worker. While I’m here another voter arrives. Squeals of happiness. Applause. Voter tells them that she has just turned 18 and it’s her very first election. More applause.

10:37 a.m. 3-6 and 3-9 (Scarlett Middle School 3300 Lorraine St.) Another polling station with no campaign workers in sight outside. Over 50 voters have been through 3-6, and another 68 for 3-9. Poll workers are explaining very patiently – over and over, as voters pass through – that you can’t do cross-over voting. If you vote in the Democratic primary, you can’t also vote in the Republican primary. Many people actually seem surprised at this.

10:42 a.m. 1-1 and 1-2 and 4-1 (Michigan Union 530 S. State St.) Voter count is predictably dismal, in the single digits. For one of the precincts, that digit is 0. Poll workers wonder why the precincts are not combined as they sometimes are. Someone is practicing scales on the grand piano in the Willis Ward Lounge. Perhaps there’s a parallel between practicing scales when no one is listening and staffing the polls when no one is voting: We do these things not for now, but to be ready for later.

11:03 a.m. 4-2 (Mary St. Polling Place 926 Mary St.) Voter count here is 8. Poll workers are re-measuring the distance of campaign yard signs from the polling place. At the corner of Hoover and Mary streets in the front lawn are a few dozen empty red cups and an empty quart bottle of some kind of alcohol strewn around a long table. Undoubtedly this is the aftermath of a late-night study session of all the candidates in preparation for voting today.

11:06 a.m. 3-5 (University Townhouses Center 3200 Braeburn Cir) The public area here is right in front of the door, so I’m the first person voters see when they arrive. They look at me expectantly until a poll worker directs them to the sign-in table. Two of the poll workers here also live in the University Townhouses complex, so it’s a convenient place to work – not far to go for lunch and dinner breaks. About 30 voters so far today, with a mini-burst of activity around 11 a.m. A poll worker points out to voters that there are vote booths. “Even that thing that looks like a giant popcorn box is a booth!” Its base has large red and white stripes. One of the poll workers is juggling to pass the time. He’s pretty good.

11:32 a.m. 4-3 (U-M Coliseum 721 S. Fifth Ave.) Voter count here is 69. One voter introduces himself as a veteran, who signed up in 1954 and would have been sent to Korea – but that war ended before he left. He rounded out his service with eight years in the reserve. He does not comment on the fact that the American flag has been hung on the wall with the blue field to the observer’s right instead of the left. A ballot is rejected by the machine. Diagnosis is that he’s cross-voted in Republican and Democratic primaries. He is apologetic. Poll worker assures him: “It keeps our day interesting.” Procedure to spoil the ballot and issue a new one is now followed.

11:44 a.m. 3-8 (Pittsfield School 2543 Pittsfield Blvd.) For the first time in today’s poll travels, voters outnumber poll workers – there’s a LINE! After a few minutes, things slow down and one poll worker is sent on his lunch break. Total voters so far at this precinct: 103. One of the city’s four electronic pollbook specialists drops by – I’ve seen her at several polling places today, checking in to see if everything’s working smoothly. She tells me that each of the specialists has 12 polling stations that they visit throughout the day – she’s on her second round now.

12:02 p.m. 4-4 and 4-8 (Pioneer High School 601 W. Stadium Blvd.) Poll greeters: one for Julia Owdziej’s probate judge campaign and two for Tamara Garwood who’s in the same race – a woman and a young man. After chatting, she shows me the literature for Garwood. “That’s my daughter,” she beams. The boy is her grandson. She’s traveled from Wisconsin to greet voters at the polls. As we’re finishing up, circuit court candidate Veronique Liem walks up. Voter count for 4-4 is 120 so far.

12:18 p.m. 3-4 and 3-7 (Allen School 2560 Towner Blvd) The two precincts here have topped 100: About 130 for 3-4 and 160 for 3-7. Outside, the school’s former principal, Joan Fitzgibbon, is loading her car with items from her office. She’s switching over to become principal at Northside Elementary in the coming academic year. This is another location with absolutely no campaign workers for any candidate. Two other highlights: (1) a man wearing sandals, with each toenail painted a different bright color, and (2) chickens out the back door – two very bold roosters in a fenced area, and a separate cage of hens.

12:27 p.m. 4-9 (Lawton School 2250 S. Seventh St.) Voter count: 128. The voting location inside of Lawton Elementary is the gym. Fans are blowing. One end of the gym is a climbing wall, but blue matts are hung to cover up the first six feet of the grips. The matts have clear logos: “No Climbing” The climbing ropes are tied out of the way just above the table where the poll workers are stationed.

12:38 p.m. 2-5 (AA Assembly of God 2455 Washtenaw Ave) An older Chinese couple comes in. The woman reads a sample ballot to her husband in Chinese before they head to the voting booths. There’ve been about 160 voters here today. A poll worker says this precinct gets a lot of regulars, who come every year. The polling station is in the basement of a church. The precinct map is hung up next to a poster of “God’s Campground.”

1:02 p.m. 4-7 and 5-7 (Dicken School 2135 Runnymede) Poll greeters for judicial campaigns are standing at a location near the entrance drive to the parking lot, based on the location of the yellow 100-foot limit sign – which was placed by a city worker. It’s not clear how the measurement was taken – as it appears to be around 300 feet away from the entrance to the school building. They are resigned to standing in this spot, however. Voter count for 5-7 is 43. Poll worker notes that he has voted in every election since the one after Kennedy.

1:03 p.m. 3-3 (Tappan Middle School 2251 E. Stadium Blvd) Along East Stadium near the street leading to Tappan, Ward 3 candidate Samuel McMullen is waving at drivers – he and one of his supporters are holding a huge banner urging people to vote for him. Closer to Tappan, another Ward 3 candidate – Julie Grand – is greeting voters with her 7-month-old dog, Ursa. She’s talking with a volunteer from Owdziej’s campaign. A voter walks by on her way out and Grand asks what number she was – the voter says she thinks she was around 4,000, which makes me laugh. I walk in with voter 275.

1:39 p.m. 5-6 (Eberwhite School 800 Soule Blvd.) Poll workers are in the midst of completing a spoiled ballot procedure for someone who cross voted in both primaries. Voter count is 119 so far. There’s an intercom system for people who need assistance at the front steps to the school; it alerts a poll worker inside. A poll worker returns from break. So they rotate jobs.

1:44 p.m. 4-6 (Cobblestone Farm 2781 Packard St.) Continuing the chicken theme, you can hear roosters crowing at this Cobblestone Farm polling station. The vote count is 142. The poll here is on the upper level, so it’s easy to tell when a voter arrives, as they clomp up the wooden stairs. The clomping right now comes from two women who are carrying bike helmets. No campaign workers outside, unless you count the scarecrow couple in bridal attire standing in the garden – clearly anti-crow.

2:05 p.m. 5-4 and 5-5 (Slauson Middle School 1019 W. Washington) Voter count is 192 so far for 5-4. Chair of this precinct began working elections after the “hanging-chad” election. Estimated turnout based on votes so far, when absentee votes are counted, could hit 20%. The only poll greeters working here are for judicial candidates.

2:10 p.m. 4-5 (St. Clare Church/Temple Beth Emeth 2309 Packard St.) A man comes in and asks: “Is there any way to see what’s on the ballot?” Yes, there are sample ballots at every polling station. He asks whether Washtenaw Community College trustees are on the ballot. No, that race will be in November. One poll worker spots a campaign volunteer who’s talking to a voter within the 100-foot boundary – she hustles out to tell him to move. “That’s the third time today!” she says. She’s not sure whose campaign he’s with, and he leaves before I get out there. It’s pretty slow here – after 7 hours, 115 voters.

4:19 p.m. 5-3 (2nd Baptist Church 850 Red Oak Rd.) A poll worker announces that the next person in line is voter 126, with a couple more waiting to get their ballots. After they vote, though, the place empties out. One poll worker leaves to take her dinner break. The remaining group discuss the fact that a worker for Owdziej’s campaign had been standing behind the 100-foot marker, but calling out to voters, “Vote for this person!” and pointing to Owdziej’s name on his T-shirt. They wondered if it was allowed, as his voice was projecting beyond the 100-foot marker. Seems like a strategy if the campaign worker can’t pronounce the candidate’s name.

4:38 p.m. 5-11 (Forsythe Middle School 1655 Newport Rd.) Voter 386 walks through the door. An earlier voter has a spoiled ballot, and is asked to place it in an envelope “with all of its friends,” a poll worker says. “Oh good, then I’m not alone!” the voter replies. This particular person is confused about the concept of a primary, and wants to vote for candidates in both parties. Throughout the day, I’ve heard voters express that same frustration. Other common reasons for spoiled ballots are when people vote for two judicial candidates instead of one. There’s a mini-rush now, with a small line. As I leave, voter 399 is in line.

5:03 p.m. 5-9 (Haisley School 825 Duncan St.) A line about six people deep is here, constituting the start of the after-work “rush.” One of those voters is Anya Dale, board member with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, who brought her young daughter along. Another voter has a spoiled ballot – she voted for more than one judicial candidate. The next ballot gets jammed. The line of voters waiting to insert their ballots into the counter is growing as a poll worker gets on the floor and opens the back of the machine, trying to figure out what’s wrong. After about 10 minutes, the worker sets that ballot aside and tries to find the voter, who has left. Her mother is still here, however, and calls to get her to come back and revote. The line starts moving again. Poll workers discuss the fact that they’re running out of ballots.

5:25 p.m. 5-10 (Abbot School 2670 Sequoia Pkwy) I arrive at the same time as Tim Grimes and his wife, who tell me they’ve been voting at this school for almost 27 years. Grimes is manager of community relations & marketing for the Ann Arbor District Library. Turnout here is 252 so far. That was about the total of voters at this precinct for the May 6 transit millage proposal, according to the precinct workers – but they point out that the polls are open another three hours. There’s a steady stream of voters, and a very short line.

5:49 p.m. 5-8 (Lakewood School 344 Gralake Ave.) The final stop on today’s polling station tour required traversing the dust and backups of Jackson Road construction to get to Gralake, where Lakeview Elementary is located. Poll workers give me tips to go a different way out, to avoid that mess. Now if I can just avoid the rain, too. Unlike the Lakewood Lizards, I don’t like getting drenched. A voter exits by saying, “That was painless!” He did not communicate his sentiment in sign language, although the gym is lined with posters showing how to sign the alphabet and numbers up to 25. More than 25 voters have cast their ballots here: This precinct is on voter 171.

That’s it from the Aug. 5, 2014 Chronicle tour of the polls. This year’s tally was 48 out of 48 precincts. The polls remain open until 8 p.m. – so there’s still plenty of time to vote.

After the polls close, unofficial results will be reported by the Washtenaw County clerk’s office on its Aug. 5, 2014 election results page. Even more unofficially, The Chronicle will post informally reported results from the paper tapes generated at polling locations. Here’s the link to the page with those results, which will be live starting at 8 p.m.: [link]

The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor city council. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already voting for The Chronicle please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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Poll: Clear Favorite for Ann Arbor Mayor Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:47:57 +0000 Dave Askins From July 28-29, several Ann Arbor residents reported being polled by telephone about their preferences in the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary election. The Chronicle has obtained the results of that poll of 435 likely voters by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina polling firm.

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. <strong>Top Chart among all voters:</strong> Christopher Taylor (39%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (15%); Sally Petersen (13%); Undecided (15%).  <strong>Bottom Chart (if the election were conducted among those who disapproved of current mayor John Hieftje's performance)</strong>: Christopher Taylor (19%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (32%); Sally Petersen (20%); Undecided (9%).

July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. Top Chart among all voters: Christopher Taylor (39%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (15%); Sally Petersen (13%); Undecided (15%). Bottom Chart (if the election were conducted among those who disapproved of current mayor John Hieftje’s performance): Christopher Taylor (19%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (32%); Sally Petersen (20%); Undecided (9%).

They show Ward 3 councilmember Christopher Taylor to be a clear favorite, with about a week to go before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary. Taylor polled at 39% compared to 19% for Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere.

Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman and Ward 2 councilmember Sally Petersen polled a few points behind Briere at 15% and 13% respectively.

The poll indicates that 15% of voters still haven’t made up their minds. Margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.7%.

The relatively large four-candidate field is attributable to the fact that no incumbent is in the race.

Kunselman was the first of the four candidates to declare his candidacy – before mayor John Hieftje announced last year he would not be seeking reelection to an eighth two-year term.

The PPP poll also asked respondents if they approved of the job that Hieftje was doing as mayor.

One of the patterns revealed in the analysis of the poll responses is that Kunselman would be a 12-point favorite if the election were held just among those voters who disapproved of Hieftje’s performance. But the poll indicated that only 27% of Ann Arbor voters disapproved of Hieftje’s performance.

A polling question that asked about favorable or unfavorable opinions of candidates – independently of an inclination to vote for them – showed Kunselman polling with the highest unfavorable opinion numbers, at 36%. But the “not sure” category for that question polled fairly high across all candidates, ranging from 29% to 43%.

The poll also included two questions about future growth – one about downtown development, and the other about the need for an improved train station. The poll indicated 46% support for the downtown projects that have been approved and built in recent years and 39% opposition. The need for a new train station polled at 52%, while the alternate view – that the current station is adequate – polled at 35%.

The content of the poll – which evinces some knowledge by its creator of the Ann Arbor political landscape – was not commissioned by The Chronicle or by any of the four mayoral campaigns. Tom Jensen grew up in Ann Arbor and is now director at Public Policy Polling, a firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. But Jensen still follows Ann Arbor politics. It was Jensen who put the poll together – out of his own interest. And it was Jensen’s voice that was used in the interactive voice response (IVR) technology deployment of the Ann Arbor mayoral poll.

The poll drew as a sample all those who’d participated in any primary election (Democratic or Republican) since 2006. Poll respondents included 32% Republican or other non-Democratic affiliation.

In a telephone interview, Jensen stressed that any poll result should be viewed with a lot of caution, especially with local elections. “I would definitely, as a pollster, encourage people to take caution in over-interpreting one poll of a low-turnout race in the middle of the summer. You’re definitely prone to more error.”

But based on the results of this poll, he said he was 99% confident that Taylor was going to be the next mayor of Ann Arbor.

Additional charts and some additional background on the polling methodology are presented below.

Analysis: Hieftje as Frame

At the Ann Arbor Democratic Party primary forum for mayoral candidates held on June 14, 2014, Stephen Kunselman sought to distinguish himself from the other three candidates – by saying that he’d represent the working class, stressing that he’s the only candidate with policies and politics that differ from the current mayor, John Hieftje, and from Hieftje’s supporters. “I’m offering you a choice of someone that is not in that camp,” he said.

Hieftje appears to be a popular mayor – judged by outcomes of elections over more than a decade that have not seen Hieftje ever lose a precinct. And that popularity is supported by the PPP poll, which gives Hieftje 52% approval against 27% disapproval and 21% not sure:

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. 52% of Ann Arbor voters approve of mayor John Hieftje's performance, 27% disapprove, and 21% are unsure about his performance.

Chart 1: July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. 52% of Ann Arbor voters approve of mayor John Hieftje’s performance, 27% disapprove, and 21% are unsure about his performance.

The logical premises of campaigning against a sitting popular mayor – who is not running for reelection – hinge on the fact that this year’s primary is a four-way race: If Kunselman were to dominate among voters who are dissatisfied with Hieftje, and the other three candidates were to enjoy roughly uniform shares of support from voters who are satisfied with Hieftje, that combination could conceivably give Kunselman more votes than the other three candidates.

While Kunselman is the clear favorite among voters who are dissatisfied with Hieftje, Kunselman still polls at just 32% in that group. [See red bars in Chart 2 below.]

The second logical premise also does not appear to be supported by the polling data. The other three candidates do not roughly split the support of voters who approve of Hieftje’s performance. Instead, Taylor is clearly dominant in that category, achieving a majority of support at 56%, with only Briere doing better than single digits. [See green bars in Chart 2 below.]

Among those who aren’t sure whether they approve or disapprove of Hieftje’s performance, the split is more uniform – the kind of distribution that would be needed among those who approve of Hieftje’s performance, to give Kunselman a win. [See gray bars in Chart 2 below.]

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 2: July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Who Are These People?

Kunselman’s campaign has also relied heavily on asking Ann Arborites to vote for him, the person. The PPP poll indicates that of the four candidates, Kunselman polls highest for those that have an unfavorable opinion of him – at 36% compared to 26% who have a favorable opinion. But even more voters (38%) aren’t sure of their opinion of Kunselman.

The same uncertainty applies to Briere, although more voters (40%) have a favorable opinion of her. Even more voters are unsure of their opinion of Petersen (43%) – who was first elected to city council two years ago. All the other candidates have at least six years of council service. Taylor’s favorable opinion numbers track closely with Hieftje’s approval numbers: 52% of voters have a favorable opinion of Taylor; and 52% of voters approve of the job Hieftje is doing as mayor.

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 3: July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Other Demographics

When the data is cut in other ways, Taylor’s strength, according to the PPP poll, is still apparent, although some exceptions emerge.

In Ward 3 and neighboring Ward 4, Taylor polls stronger than he does citywide, doing better than 50% in those two wards. But in her home Ward 1, Briere hits 42% compared with 31% for Taylor. And in Petersen’s home Ward 2, the poll indicates 29% support for Petersen, compared with 24% for Taylor. The undecided vote in Ward 5 is high – at 21%. Polling data cut across wards is presented in Chart 4 below:

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 4: By Ward. July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Among African-Americans, the poll shows Briere to be the strongest candidate, with 24% support compared to 21% for Taylor. Petersen’s 27% comes close to Taylor’s 32% in the “other” category for ethnicity. Polling data cut across ethnicity is presented in Chart 5 below:

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 5: By Ethnicity. July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Across age, one result that emerges from the poll is that Briere appears to enjoy more support among the youngest voters than she does among the oldest voters. Taylor shows a similar pattern. Kunselman and Petersen are both stronger among the oldest voters than they are among the two categories of younger voters. Polling data cut across age is presented in Chart 6 below:

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 6: By Age. July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

With many Republicans expected to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary, the polling sample was selected from previous primary voters without regard to which primary they’d participated in – dating back to 2006. A large number of Republican and independent voters are still undecided – 27% and 26%, respectively. But Petersen is the strongest candidate among Republican voters, polling at 27%.

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 7: By Party Affiliation. July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Candidates don’t show any striking differences across gender lines. Polling data cut across gender is presented in Chart 8 below:

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 8: By Gender. July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Future of Ann Arbor

The poll indicates more support than opposition to recent downtown developments that have been approved and constructed – 46% to 39%. The poll also indicates that a slim majority of Ann Arbor voters (52%) think the city needs a new train station, while 35% think the current station is adequate.

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

Chart 9: July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling.

About the Poll

In the last few days, The Chronicle noticed reports on Twitter of telephone polling for the Ann Arbor Democratic primary mayoral race – citing Public Policy Polling as the polling organization. An inquiry with PPP, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, revealed that it had not been commissioned by any of the four campaigns. Responsible for the poll was PPP itself – in the form of director Tom Jensen.

Jenson spoke with The Chronicle by phone on July 29. Why did he design and implement this poll? Jenson explained: “I’m an Ann Arbor native. And even though I haven’t lived in Ann Arbor for 12 years now, I’m still really interested in Ann Arbor politics. Electing a new mayor for the first time in 14 years … I guess my curiosity killed me and I just decided to do a poll about it.”

Jensen said that he grew up in Burns Park, attended Burns Park Elementary, then Tappan Middle School, then Pioneer High School. He hasn’t lived in Ann Arbor since moving away to North Carolina to attend college.

“Since I was seven or eight years old following Ann Arbor politics, I can’t think of us ever having a truly contested mayoral primary, so there is no precedent for this.”

PPP uses an automated phone polling technique – with pre-recorded questions delivered to the respondents, who press numbers on their phone corresponding to choices. For this survey, Jensen recorded the questions himself. Readers who’d like to hear Jensen’s voice can listen to an extended interview about 2012 election results hosted on the Ann Arbor District Library website.

The survey started with the basic voting question, followed by the question about attitudes toward mayor John Hieftje’s job performance. At that point the demographic questions were asked. Respondents who answered at least the demographic questions had their responses counted for the mayoral voting poll. Additional questions came after the set of demographic items.

Asked if PPP tracks how many people hang up the phone without responding to the poll, Jensen explained that the positive response rate for polls in general these days is below 10%. The Ann Arbor mayoral primary poll had a roughly 5% response rate. Jensen attributed the general trend to flagging attention spans. A generation ago, he said, 40% of people who were called would answer the poll questions.

Jensen explained that the polling technique does account for the possibility of variable response rates across different groups of voters. So it’s always important to make sure that you have an appropriate gender, racial and age balance in the poll. Jensen said he also looked at what percentage of the vote came from each ward in the last three mayoral primaries – to make the poll response numbers were lining up in that. He concluded: “Even though the response rate was very low, I think it’s a pretty good representation of the Ann Arbor electorate.”

But he allowed that the more local a race gets, the less accurate the polling is. And that’s not something that is specific to PPP – it’s just something that is true across the board. He attributed that to the fact that it’s harder to model the electorate for smaller elections. It’s hard to say who is actually going to vote in a local election, he said. And because of that he’d cast a wide net for the polling sample. The poll had called anyone who’d voted in at least one primary since 2006.

But it’s possible that people might come out to vote who had never voted in a municipal primary before – and that can have an impact on the results, Jensen said. It’s also possible that the screening for the sample was too lenient – and that perhaps only people who had voted two or three times in a primary should have been called.

So he offered the results with a caveat: “I would definitely, as a pollster, encourage people to take caution in over-interpreting one poll of a low-turnout race in the middle of the summer. You’re definitely prone to more error.”

Still, Jensen ventured: “I am 99% confident that Taylor is going to be the next mayor of Ann Arbor – but I do think it’s good for people to always take poll results with a certain amount of caution, and not just 100% assume that every poll you see is right on the mark.”

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Column: Paying Attention at the Polls Tue, 09 Aug 2011 13:20:21 +0000 Mary Morgan The way we see the world depends a lot on what we’re watching – either intentionally or what’s jammed in front of our faces. I spent the early part of my journalism career as a business reporter and editor, watching intentionally the issues specific to the business community. I didn’t pay much attention to local government issues, unless their intersection with business put them right under my nose.

Sign at Scarlett Middle School polling station

A sign at Scarlett Middle School polling station for the Aug. 2, 2011 Ann Arbor city council primary election. (Photos by the writer.)

Over the years, my worldview changed. We founded The Chronicle in part because we felt that our local government deserves more media coverage on an intentional, routine basis, not just when a perceived “scandal” surfaces.

So Chronicle coverage routinely includes details of how local government bureaucracy works, what decisions are being made, who’s making them and why, and how taxpayer money is being spent.

Unlike decisions made at the national level, it’s conceivable in a community the size of Ann Arbor – or even the whole of Washtenaw County – for individuals to understand and influence what happens here, especially if they’re armed with information.

In November 2008, after its launch a couple of months earlier, The Chronicle covered its first election. The presidential race between Obama and McCain sparked passion and drew crowds to the polls in Ann Arbor, most of them voting for Barack Obama.

I was reminded of that exhilarating night this last Tuesday, when I spent much of the day dropping in on polling sites in Ann Arbor’s primary elections for city council in Wards 2, 3 and 5.

Last Tuesday, I didn’t see much passion and there were no crowds. No lines at the polls, no dancing in the streets. It didn’t feel like many people were paying attention.

In fact, several poll workers told me it was the lowest turnout they could recall – and some of them had worked the polls for decades. By the numbers, 3,931 people voted in the three wards, out of 46,797 total registered voters. That’s 8.4%. There were no primaries in Wards 1 and 4 because there were no challengers to the incumbent Democrats, no Republican candidates in Ward 1, and only one Republican in the Ward 4 primary.

There was even a precinct where not one person showed up to vote – Ward 2, Precinct 2, with a polling station in Palmer Commons, on the University of Michigan campus. That’s not the only time in recent memory no one has voted in Precinct 2-2. The same thing happened in the 2005 Democratic primary, contested between Eugene Kang and Stephen Rapundalo.

So poll workers last Tuesday had time on their hands – they’d been advised to bring reading material. And we saw many of them with library books, as well as a few with laptops or iPads. Some of their conversation turned to the low turnout. Two common theories emerged: Public apathy, and the lack of a daily printed newspaper.

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about those theories. Something about them sounds more like an excuse than a reason. Yet I lack an alternative explanation.

An Ode to Public Places

One of the things I’ve grown to love about election days is the chance to visit as many polling locations as possible, to check out democracy in action. It’s better if the weather is dry – I ride my red Honda Ruckus, and a scooter isn’t the best transportation when it’s raining.

I’ll admit the view from the seat of a scooter is not as exotic as the vantage point Ann Arbor city clerk Jackie Beaudry enjoyed earlier this year when she observed elections in in Kazakhstan – but I’ll take it.

On Tuesday, we dropped by 19 of the 25 polling stations in Wards, 2, 3 and 5 – spanning the city’s geography from Lakewood Elementary to the west, to St. Paul’s Lutheran School to the east, from University Townhouses to the south, to Clague Middle School in the north.

It’s not just an opportunity quite literally to witness the process by which our government representatives are elected. Our tour of the polls also takes us to places I don’t usually go in my travels through town, winding through neighborhoods that I don’t visit in my normal routine. They’re neighborhoods that rarely even get a mention in The Chronicle’s Stopped.Watched. feature.

Chicks at Lakewood

Baby chicks in the hall at Ann Arbor's Lakewood Elementary School.

Schools play host to many of the polling stations. Because I don’t have children, I almost never have cause to walk down hallways lined with abstract finger-painted pictures, with nameplates on the classroom doors for “Mrs. Green” or “Mr. Smith.”

In the hallway of Lakewood Elementary, a cage was rustling with five baby chicks – a handmade poster above the cage told me their names: Goldie, Fluffy, Autumn, Hermione and Pip! Outside of Scarlett Middle School, a Project Grow community garden is fenced off next to the parking lot, lush with sunflowers, tomatoes and other plants nearing harvest. These are vignettes of the community I likely wouldn’t have noticed, were it not for my election-day travels.

Not every polling station is located in a school. Of the 25 polling stations, 17 were located in public schools, one in a private school, two at University of Michigan sites, two at housing complexes, two at churches and one at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

I like the connection between elections and schools, or other public places. These locations serve as a reminder of our role as citizens, and of the connection between the people we elect, the taxes we pay, and the tangible work – ideally, for the public good – that gets done as a result: Schools and sewers, streets and stoplights, police and parks.

Going to the polls at least a couple of times each year also serves as a touchstone, grounding us in a sense of place. Few other rituals are so inclusive, or draw together people who are otherwise bounded only by the random physical proximity of their homes, and require of us a common experience. It’s an experience that requires at least some acknowledgement that while we are in many ways singular, we are also intertwined into a larger community in which we all have a stake.

Absentee voting is no doubt more convenient – as online voting would be – but we lose something if we abandon the physical act of schlepping ourselves to the polls. My husband related an anecdote about a friend, visiting last week from Tacoma, Wash., after moving there from Ann Arbor. The Tacoma resident reported that after casting his ballot in Washington’s vote-by-mail system, reading The Chronicle’s field reports from the polls on election day made him nostalgic for that experience.

While convenience would likely move the needle of participation, it wouldn’t significantly change the lack of engagement that the Aug. 2, 2011 turnout reflects. After all, we turned out in droves for the November 2008 election, didn’t we? Almost 69% of registered voters in Washtenaw County cast ballots then. Why can’t we aspire to those numbers – or more – every time?

So Where Are the Voters?

I’m guessing that more people shopped at Briarwood Mall on Tuesday than travelled to their Ann Arbor polling station to vote. Maybe it’s because the view of ourselves as consumers is what’s reflected back to us from nearly every angle. It’s a view reflected through advertising, of course, but also from our nation’s political leaders, who regularly cite the need to spur consumer spending as the key to fixing our economy.

On the other hand, our role as citizens is generally underplayed. Few people aspire to know who represents them on the city council or the county board, let alone understand what’s on a city council agenda or to sit through a county board meeting.

Attending a local government meeting is akin to homework, for many people. It’s a common assignment for high school civics classes – and I can tell you from personal observation, those kids who come to see the county board or city council in action don’t seem to be approaching the task with the idea that they’re witnessing something important. They seem to view it as a punishment, unavoidable and boring, something that can be endured only by taking frequent breaks to send text messages to friends. Based on the turnout at the polls on Tuesday, many of their parents likely feel the same way.

These same parents, however, probably have strong opinions about national issues and politicians. They might not be able to name their city councilmembers, know what ward they live in, or name one important local issue facing the community, but they’ll be passably conversant about any number of national or international issues. Ask about the national debt ceiling, the war in Afghanistan, the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan – and you’ve got a conversation. Ask about TIF capture in the DDA district and you’ll get a blank stare.

So how can we bring at least the same level of conversational competence about national issues to the level of local government? Efforts underway in other sectors might serve as models to help meet this goal.

In the economic sector, there’s a growing recognition of the importance of focusing on your local community. That’s reflected in groups like Think Local First, formed to highlight locally-owned businesses in Washtenaw County, or Slow Food Huron Valley, which focuses on the local food economy – tapping into the “locavore” movement. Another example is described in the recent edition of the magazine Fast Company, which featured a Q&A with Amy Cortese, author of “Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing.” She discusses the premise first floated by Slow Money founder Woody Tasch, who advocates for investing 50% of your assets within 50 miles of where you live.

The same approach applied to local government – a “locavote” movement – would mean a concerted effort to draw attention to the actions of our elected representatives and government staff who are closest to home. Those are the people you actually have a chance of meeting at the grocery or gas station – the people who are making decisions that directly affect where you live, the schools where your children learn, the condition of your street, the safety of your neighborhood.

That kind of interest might also encourage more people to participate by actually running for local office. The fact that Ann Arbor voters often don’t have a choice on the ballot is astonishing, especially for a city with a reputation for political activism.

I’m not suggesting we turn our backs on state or national issues. I believe many of the problems our nation faces today can be traced back to a lack of attention to all levels of government. But we’ve been eating dessert – that is, we’ve been spending too much time as consumers, not citizens. Now it’s time, as Obama said last month regarding the national debt crisis, to “eat our peas.” Peas grown locally, of course.

I personally love peas, but I’m not sure what might compel more people to eat up. Nonpartisan elections? Online voting? Declaring election day a holiday? All of these things might help get people to the table, but it won’t guarantee they’ll bring an appetite. And it’s a sustained hunger for knowing and understanding your local government – not just on election day, but throughout the year – that will make our community stronger.

Sign in an Ann Arbor elementary school teachers lounge

Sign posted in an Ann Arbor elementary school teachers lounge, down the hall from a polling station for the Aug. 2, 2011 primary election. Unlike the writer of this sign, it didn't seem like many people were watching democracy in action on Tuesday.

Back to Tuesday’s primary elections.

At King Elementary, polling location for Ward 2, Precinct 7, I spent some time in the teachers lounge, working on my laptop to file an update. Posted on a bulletin board was a sign that seemed both ominous and cheery – I took a photo of its admonition: “We’re watching you! Please clean up your mess! Thanks!”

Mess? For the record, I did not leave a mess. But turning up to the polls, like anything in the real world, can be a little messy. Your ballot might not be accepted by the AutoMARK machine on the first try. You might forget your photo ID. Somebody’s kid might spill juicy-juice down your leg. If enough people show up, you might have to wait in a messy line.

That’s actually a goal to which we might aspire: Let there be lines at the polls. In that line you might have to stand next to someone you don’t know and make awkward, messy small talk: “So, you come here often?” But you might see someone you haven’t seen in years – “Hey, you’re not dead, yet!” If nothing else, polls are an odd, endearing social opportunity.

The general election falls on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters in every Ann Arbor ward except Ward 1 will have a choice for city council on the ballot. [That assumes Jane Lumm is successful in getting 100 signatures on her nominating petitions as an independent candidate in Ward 2.] To find your polling place, type in an address on the My Property page of the city of Ann Arbor’s website, and click on the Voter tab.

I’m guessing Chronicle readers probably already know where to vote.

But Chronicle readers might not have a get-out-the-vote conversational opener in their repertoire. So here’s a suggestion for the next time you’re at a neighborhood block party, at your place of worship, at your exercise class, or standing in line at the grocery store. Try this simple gambit: “November is a local election, right? So where is it exactly that you vote?”

Come November, I hope to see more of you and your friends at the polls.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government and civic affairs. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


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