Election Day: August 2011

A view from the polls in Wards 2, 3 and 5

In what’s become an election day ritual, The Chronicle will be spending much of the day visiting polling places throughout the city.

100-foot-limit Slauson Middle School

The 100-foot limit signs around polling places were already measured out and placed the day before. This photo was taken around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 at Slauson Middle School (where residents in 5-4 and 5-5 vote).

For this year’s city council Democratic primary, we’ll be visiting Wards 2, 3 and 5. Only those three of the city’s five wards are contested this year among Democrats. No wards have more than one Republican on the ballot.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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.

If you’re still researching the candidates, check out Chronicle coverage of the Democratic city council primary campaigns.

And we’re off – check back throughout the day for updates.

7:20 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 6 (Eberwhite Elementary School, 800 Soule Blvd.): Met Chronicle commenter DrData face-to-face leaving the polls. Even after chatting, allowing more time for additional voters, DrData remained only the second voter. Poll workers noted that only a couple dozen absentee ballots had been marked in their voter books. The absentee ballots will be counted separately in this election, instead of distributed to the precincts to be run through with the ballots marked at the polls. It’s already plenty stuffy in here in the gym. Poll workers brought fans.

Two campaign signs – one for Mike Anglin and one for Neal Elyakin – lie flat on the ground, just inside the 100-foot boundary marker. It looks like they were placed before the marker was installed, and were deemed to violate the restriction.

7:30 a.m. Ward 3, Precincts 6 and 9 (Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.): Four people have shown up so far to vote in the school gym. It’s hot here – doors to the outside are open, with large fans blowing in slightly cooler outside air. Poll workers report that the power had still been off earlier this morning, though it was restored by the time the polls opened at 7. Voting could have taken place even without electricity, they say, but it would have been a bit dark.

No candidates or campaign workers are outside of the school. Signs for incumbent Stephen Kunselman are positioned along the roadway coming into Scarlett, but only Ingrid Ault has signs near the entrance to the school, just outside the 100-foot boundary beyond which campaigning can’t occur. No signs are in sight for Marwan Issa. There are very few signs of activity – a man walking his dog, the wind rustling plants in a large community garden next to the school’s parking lot.

7:45 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 2 (Bach Elementary School, 600 W. Jefferson St.): Voted. Four others had voted before me. Poll workers are discussing English grammar. Lamenting the fact that sentence diagraming is no longer taught in school. One worker takes refuge from that conversation by reading a book, checked out from the Ann Arbor District Library. It’s “Stillness,” by Courtney Angela Brkic, a collection of short stories inspired by the war in Bosnia.

8:15 a.m. Ward 3, Precinct 5 (University Townhouses, 3200 Braeburn Cir.): In this polling station just off of Ellsworth, three people have voted so far – half the number of poll workers here in the housing complex’s clubhouse, which is pleasantly air-conditioned. One of the poll workers is Phyllis Green, who has worked almost every election at this same location since shortly after moving here in 1988 – she lives in the complex, just a short walk away.

A voter walks in and is greeted by a poll worker: “Welcome to Democracy Incorporated!” Soon after that, another voter comes in who seems to know everyone – it’s Susan Baskett, an elected member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board. (She’s not on the ballot this time.) As she leaves, she promises to drum up more business for the polling station by encouraging her neighbors to get out and vote.

9 a.m. Ward 3, Precinct 8 (Pittsfield Elementary School, 2543 Pittsfield Blvd.): Several Issa signs are mixed in with signs for Ault and Kunselman outside the school. Inside the gym, three of the five poll workers are reading books – it’s been uncharacteristically slow, they say. Two people walk in – the 14th and 15th voters – and books are quickly closed to attend to them.

There’s a cooler filled with water bottles to help get through the day, and several fans blowing to try to circulate some of the hot air. Today’s weather (current temperature 79 F, forecast high 86 F)  seems incompatible with the school mascot – The Penguins.

9:05 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 1 (Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.): The potential fifth voter at the precinct turned out not to be able to vote there – consultation with the poll workers and a phone call to the clerk’s office confirmed that his address indicated his polling place is Eberwhite Elementary. “Eberwhite it is!” he declared.

9:44 a.m. Ward 3, Precincts 1 and 2 (Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave.): Five had voted so far. The doors to the elevator opened on the third floor location for the sixth voter at 9:50:44. After he’d voted, they closed at 9:53:16. Choice of reading by poll worker is weighty – “A. Lincoln: A Biography,” by Ronald C. White. Poll worker contrasts voter turnout for 3-1 and 3-2 with precinct 3-3, which has its polls located at Tappan Middle School: “The people of Tappan love to vote!”

9:50 a.m. Ward 3, Precincts 4 and 7 (Allen Elementary School, 2560 Towner): On the way over from Pittsfield Elementary, we encounter state Rep. Jeff Irwin driving through the neighborhood and say a quick hello. He reports that he hasn’t yet voted.

At Allen Elementary, poll workers report that it’s been smooth except for one incident early in the day, when a voter questioned whether he truly was required to show a picture ID in order to vote. A quick call was placed to the city clerk’s office – he confirmed that this indeed was a legal requirement, as he’d been told.

This is the busiest polling station so far, with over 30 voters counted and several more walking in while we were there – including candidate Ingrid Ault. She’s hoarse and shows how her feet have blistered from walking the ward – it’s been an exhausting race. She says she’s not planning to do much campaigning today, but will be gathering this evening at Arbor Brewing Co. to wait for election results with Rapundalo and Elyakin.

10:03 a.m. Ward 2, Precincts 3 and 4 (Angell Elementary School, 1608 S. University Ave.): Twenty people have voted so far. But it’s a dead zone right now. Signs for Hull and Rapundalo abound. Wonder if the alliterative “Re-elect Rapundalo” slogan on his signs improve accurate pronunciation of his name. Don’t know why, but it’s surprising that the playfield next to the school is artificial turf. Wonder if this would work for Huron Hills putting greens. Or fairways.

10:45 a.m. Ward 2, Precinct 7 (King Elementary School, 3800 Waldenwood Lane): About 15 voters have passed through – it’s unusually slow, poll workers say. Typically this polling station has people waiting for the doors to open at 7 a.m., but today no one showed up until closer to 8 a.m. A year ago, this precinct had over 500 voters here for the August primary. It’s not on pace to come even close to that number this year.

A voter shows up who doesn’t have his photo ID. He hadn’t intended to vote – he’d brought his dog to the school grounds to play frisbee, then saw the signs for the polling station and figured he’d stop in. No problem, he’s told – he simply has to sign a form attesting that he has a photo ID available, just not in his possession at the moment.

11:45 a.m. Ward 5, Precincts 4 and 5 (Slauson Middle School, 1019 W. Washington): Witnessed 95th voter slide ballot into machine. Poll workers lament the poor turnout, which they say is the worst they’ve seen. Poll worker says that two students from Ireland, studying at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, will be stopping by this polling location later to get an up close look at U.S. local elections.

12:10 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 8 (St. Paul’s Lutheran School, 495 Earhart Road): On our way over from King Elementary, former school board member and local activist Kathy Griswold drives past and hails us. She speculates that the low turnout might work to the advantage of the candidate she supports, Tim Hull.

At St. Paul’s, the 26th voter walks in the door after a bit of a lull. She tells a poll worker that she originally didn’t think it was a contested race – but it is. There’s a couch in this room, along with a foosball table and large TV. Poll workers are not taking advantage of any of these amenities, however. They are waiting. And waiting. A poll worker estimates they won’t hit 100 voters for the day, at this rate. [In the 2005 Democratic primary, the Rapundalo-Kang race, 159 people voted in 2-8. One difference is that this year absent voter ballots will be counted by separate boards, not distributed to the precincts to be run through the tabulator.]

12:31 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 3 (Second Baptist Church, 850 Red Oak Road): Pollworkers greet The Chronicle by kidding us that they were wondering why no one had shown up to write about them yet.

A trend seems to be emerging: Poll workers choose reading material checked out from the Ann Arbor District Library. This one is a biography: “Branch Rickey” by Jimmy Breslin. The faint sounds from the sanctuary, possibly of a sermon, filter down into the lower level where the polls are located. Poll workers are coordinating their breaks. The counter stood at 27 on arrival. That’s where it stands on our departure.

12:55 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 6 (Clague Middle School, 2616 Nixon Road): There hasn’t been a voter here since noon – and lunchtime is usually busy. Poll workers also suspect that the storms predicted later this afternoon might dampen post-work turnout too. As we’re leaving, a voter approaches – the first one in nearly an hour.

1:15 p.m. Ward 2, Precinct 9 (Thurston School, 2300 Prairie St.): “You look lonely!” a voter says as he walks into the multi-purpose room where three poll workers are sitting. They’ve had 25 voters up until this point. One of the poll workers is running out of crossword puzzles.

4:55 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 8 (Lakewood Elementary School, 344 Gralake Ave.): The city’s western-most polling station is also its busiest – but only because a couple dozen kids are running around at the Green Adventures Camp held at the school. Down the hall in the gym, where the poll is located, it’s decidedly quieter – and hotter, too, with air as thick as the tropics. The school’s mascot – the Lakewood Lizard – would feel at home here.

Poll workers report 57 voters have been through, a low turnout that one worker attributes to “public apathy and no newspaper.” As we’re leaving, there’s a mini-rush – four people coming to vote.

5:20 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 10 (Abbot Elementary School, 2670 Sequoia Parkway): When hearing that Lakewood had only 57 voters by 5 p.m., a poll worker exclaims, “We’ve got that beat – we’ve had 58!” No voters are here now, however, even though typically traffic picks up after 5 p.m. At this rate, since there are no problems with the tabulator and no write-in candidates to process, they expect to be able to wrap up their work within a half hour of the polls closing at 8 p.m.

The library book trend continues – one worker, who notes that he used to work for the library part-time, is reading “Kings of the North” by Elizabeth Moon, part of her fantasy fiction series The Deed of Paksenarrion. He recommends Moon’s work.

5:50 p.m. Ward 5, Precinct 9 (Haisley Elementary School, 825 Duncan St.): Ballot in hand, a woman stands at the tabulator with her young son, encouraging him to insert the ballot and “vote.” After some initial difficulty, the machine grabs the paper ballot and sucks it into the box. The son gets an “I Voted” sticker, which he affixes to his T-shirt and exclaims: “Monkey voted!” (There’s a cartoon monkey on the front of his shirt.) The mother, boy and monkey count as the 114th vote cast at this polling location.

Two more hours of voting time remain until the polls close at 8 p.m., but The Chronicle is packing it in until results start rolling in. We urge readers who haven’t already voted to get out and do so, and to check back with us later tonight for information on election outcomes.

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  1. By sally m
    August 2, 2011 at 9:37 am | permalink

    If you vote at Slausen, go in lower level. If you go in main entrance you’ll wander around forever trying to follow confusing or nonexistent signage.

  2. By Eric Boyd
    August 2, 2011 at 9:42 am | permalink

    The poll workers at Bach seemed to be doing an anecdotal survey of transportation choices. When I confirmed I had biked there, one said to the other, “See I told you most everyone in this neighborhood walks or bikes.”

  3. By Pete Richards
    August 2, 2011 at 11:08 am | permalink

    Haisley School, 5th Ward, was the quietest ever, going back as far as ’94.

  4. By Jackie Beaudry
    August 2, 2011 at 11:44 am | permalink

    This is great Dave! Thanks for the updates from the polls!

  5. By Linda Diane Feldt
    August 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm | permalink

    Just after noon, I was 65th at Bach School, 5-2. Ran into Kathy Clark coming to vote, wife of Mike Anglin. She said Mike was out and about, since early this morning, putting up signs and encouraging voters.

  6. August 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm | permalink

    This turnout is really pathetic! Have the voters in the Second, Third, and Fifth Wards fallen under a spell of somnolence? Will they awaken in the next three hours and fifteen minutes?

  7. August 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm | permalink

    There are still 40 minutes to cast your vote! If you haven’t done so, I encourage everyone to get out before it rains!

  8. By cosmonıcan
    August 2, 2011 at 10:46 pm | permalink

    The final tally shows a much higher turnout in Ward Five than the rest of town—anyone care to offer an opinion? While we’re at it, I’d sure like to see some credible names for the Mayor’s race, next year will soon be on us, it would be nice to have a real election next time.

  9. August 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm | permalink

    Re: [8] “… much higher turnout in Ward Five than the rest of town—anyone care to offer an opinion?”

    Part of that is due to the number of registered voters in each ward. Ward 3 actually outperformed Ward 5 percentage-wise. In Ward 3, 8.84% of those who are registered actually voted. And in Ward 5, registered voters had a turnout of 8.71%

    For Ward 3, that was 1,081 of 12,223 registered voters. For Ward 5, that was 1,652 of 18,963 registered voters.

  10. By cosmonıcan
    August 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm | permalink

    Thanks Dave. I was worried about rioting in the streets. By the way you can borrow a dog from me any time you want.

  11. By TJ
    August 3, 2011 at 8:53 am | permalink

    I was voter #180 at Slauson, around 4:30. That seemed historically low, even for these less crowded ballots. My son (who also fed the machine) and I noticed two different 100 foot warning signs, quite far apart. Maybe one was for the ground floor entrance?

    P.S. I think all the Issa signs were outside their compound on Packard…

  12. August 3, 2011 at 10:49 am | permalink

    Slauson always does a poor job of marking the entrance. This time at least there was a sign visible from the front walk, if you looked over to the left. The first time I voted there, school was in session and there were no signs, so I wandered around poking into classes. It was educational.

    I was once again asked for a driver’s license and when I told them I didn’t bring one they asked me to fill out the affidavit. It turns out they will accept a passport, it’s just easier for them to say “driver’s license” than “government issued photo ID.”

  13. August 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm | permalink

    You missed the big count over at the Justice Building where a bunch of us election workers were sequestered for the day to count the citywide AV ballots. Guess it would have been hard to have a reporter there since we could have observers but once you came in you couldn’t leave until the polls closed. (sort of like the Hotel California in the song–You could come in but may not go out, eh?)The morning was pretty busy but the afternoon, not so much. One reason I mentioned this is that before the elections I heard a rumor that in past elections absentee ballots were thrown out or not counted. Believe me they were counted! In an election with such a low turnout I’m sure they were very helpful to some candidates.

  14. By Mary Morgan
    August 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm | permalink

    Re. “You missed the big count…”

    You’re right, in part – if we had dropped by during the day, we would have been sequestered along with you. But I did come over just before 8 p.m. and was there for the final few minutes of waiting before Jeff Micale got the call to start counting absentee voter (AV) ballots. It was good that this time the AV counters at least had a view, looking out over Huron from the fourth floor. If you worked the November 2010 election, you were sequestered in the basement level of the county administration building – I remember it well, since we stayed there until 4 a.m. when the final results were tallied. I was glad it took considerably less time on Tuesday!

  15. August 8, 2011 at 9:23 pm | permalink

    Yes, I was there in November, too when our team left about 2:00 a.m. Not a lot of fun!