Transit Millage Vote: View from the Bus

Spending Election Day aboard AAATA buses

Editor’s note: Based on early results, the transit millage appears to have passed.

It’s a Chronicle tradition to spend Election Day on two-wheeled transportation – a bicycle and a scooter – visiting as many precincts as possible and logging vignettes from the polls and points in between.

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, The Ride, AAATA, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority bus loading near Blake Transit Center.

But today’s vote – in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township – includes way more geographic territory than we’re accustomed to covering.

Instead of trying to visit as many polling places as possible, we’re going to settle for visiting a couple in each jurisdiction. And to cover the distance, we’re going to tap the resources of the organization that’s putting the millage on the ballot – the AAATA fixed route bus system.

So updates today will be light on polling places and heavy on the points in between. We hope readers will help fill in the gaps by leaving comments on this article with their own vignettes from the polls.

Whatever your view on the millage, we hope you’ll mark a ballot today.

7:00 a.m. Ward 5, Precinct 2 (Bach Elementary School, 600 W. Jefferson St., Ann Arbor). We’re voters 1 and 2 here. When we point out the irony of showing a driver’s license to vote on a public transit proposal, poll workers seem to like the joke. Poll worker with American flag sweater worked this precinct at the Nov. 5, 2013 election as well.

7:15 a.m. Fleetwood Diner. Getting coffee for the road, we ask if any of the staff is planning to vote. The waitress indicates that she will, but it’s sure where her polling place is located. For anyone who needs to find out that information, it’s available on the Michigan Votes website.

7:25 a.m. Blake Transit Center. Lobby doesn’t open until 7:30 a.m. With the sun beaming down, the five-minute wait outside in 32 F degree temperature is not too bad. Across Fifth Avenue outside the Ann Arbor District Library polling location there is a Yes sign, a No sign and a sign for mayoral candidate Sally Petersen. You can’t vote for Petersen today, as the transit millage is the only question on the ballot. Wonder if any other candidates will have the same strategy for getting their names in front of voters for the August primary.

8:06 a.m. Blake Transit Center. Bus #427 departs with a total of 6 passengers. A sign gives instructions: No smoking, no eating, no drinking, no loud music. no profanity. We comply.

8:14 a.m. Packard & Stadium. An automated message, delivered by a female voice, tells us “Vote May 6. Important public transit decisions are being made. Vote May 6.”

8:20 a.m. Stone School & Packard. Former Georgetown Mall site is level dirt. Ward 4 councilmember Margie Teall asked at last night’s council meeting for a status report on the Packard Square development that’s supposed to go in there. Potholes are rattling the bus pretty good.

8:25 a.m. Ellsworth & Platt. Noticed a dead deer on the side of the road. City council action last night included a resolution directing the development of a collaborative effort to manage the deer herd.

8:30 a.m. Carpenter & Packard. Course correction. Boarded the wrong variant of Route #5 to get to Polo Fields, an Ypsi Township polling location. So we’re off the bus, and around the corner to the stop on Packard, and we’re picking up the Route #5A.

9:00 a.m. Ypsi Township Precincts 2 & 3 (Polo Fields, 2955 Packard). Poll worker small talk includes speculation that today’s high temperature will hit 62 F.

9:02 a.m. Ypsi Township Precincts 2 & 3 (Polo Fields, 2955 Packard). Poll worker tells voter: “You’re voter #30. That’s your lottery number for today!” Another man walks in the door. When directed toward the voting station, he clarifies: “Oh, I’m not here to vote – I’m looking for the restroom.”

9:20 a.m. Ypsi Township Precincts 2 & 3 (Polo Fields, 2955 Packard). Scott Martin, an Ypsilanti Township trustee, comes in to vote. He chats with poll workers and thanks them for their service. Though it’s by no means busy, a consistent flow of voters are passing through – 43 people so far.

9:50 a.m. Packard & Rice. Picking up the bus again, heading to Precinct 1. There’s no sidewalk on the south side of Packard along this stretch – but lots of dandelions.

10:05 a.m. Ypsi Township Precinct 1 (Free Methodist Church, 1800 Packard). Only 14 voters so far. The election chair thinks they’ll be lucky to get 10% turnout.

10:14 a.m. Ypsi Township Precinct 1 (Free Methodist Church, 1800 Packard). A voter arrives using AAATA’s A-Ride service. “It’s a party of one!” she jokes. She expresses surprise that there’s only one item on the ballot. The van driver isn’t voting here – he heads to the restroom.

10:26 a.m. Ypsi Township Precinct 1 (Free Methodist Church, 1800 Packard). A voter reminisces with poll workers about the November 2012 election, when lines were long. Poll workers recall they didn’t get out of here until 2 a.m. Apparently someone who’d been given a ballot got tired of waiting in line, and left – taking that ballot with him. It took a while to figure out what happened.

11:20 a.m. Ypsi City Ward 3, Precincts 1 & 3 (Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 201 N. River) Yes sign placed two inches in front of No sign, but not shoved as deep into the ground, leaving the stop sign graphic from the No sign visible as an odd lower panel for the Yes message.  ”Are the numbers still matching?” is the question from one precinct worker to another. “Yes,” comes the reply. So far there’ve been 88 voters. Voters are being asked for a photo ID, not a driver’s license, but driver’s license is what is produced. Basement of church has shuffleboard court marked on the tile.

Little tyke with dad is confused about what this outing is for – thinking they’re going “boating” today. “Where is the boat? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?”

12:19 p.m. Sidetrack Bar and Grill. Lunch is fish tacos. And it is delicious.

12:45 p.m. Ypsilanti Transit Center. Route #6 pulls out headed to Ann Arbor. Young man boards at State and Research Park Drive, asks us how to get to Arrowwood. Not sure but this bus goes to downtown Ann Arbor and from there it’s probably the #1 – if not, you can catch whatever bus it is from there. Briarwood stop fills with half dozen passengers who scramble off just before we pull out, once they realize this is headed to Ann Arbor not Ypsi.

2:10 p.m. Back in Ann Arbor. Naps could be indicated.

6:15 p.m. Ward 1, Precinct 4 (Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St.) Poll workers report a higher-than-expected turnout – 185 voters, when they expected closer to 60. As we’re talking, a “surge” of about six voters come in. One woman is pushing a stroller, and reports that her child was excited by the Community Center’s purple bus that’s parked outside. It turns out she’s also excited by the “I Voted” sticker.

That wraps it up for us.

Election results from the Washtenaw County clerk’s office will be available on the clerk’s May 6, 2014 election results webpage.

If you’d like to collect early results from the voting machine tapes, visit your precinct just before 8 p.m. and wait respectfully out of the way of the poll workers – the same people who opened the polls 13 hours before. It would be welcome if you logged the yes/no total in a comment on this article. We’ll compile them in a shared spreadsheet that everyone can view: [shared Google Spreadsheet].

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  1. May 6, 2014 at 7:56 am | permalink

    After several years of improvement, election workers at Slauson are once again asking for a driver’s license. The Clerk needs to train these workers better. And we need to repeal this stupid law, whose real purpose is to disenfranchise the poor.

  2. By Chai
    May 6, 2014 at 9:04 am | permalink

    I was the 17th person to vote in my precinct (#5 in 4th ward), around 8am. The volunteer said he had expected only about 40 all day, so he thought turnout was strong so far. I was one of only two voters on-site at the moment. One of the volunteers got up at 4 to drive in from Saline to do this. I thanked her for helping us vote. I voted ‘yes’ to support the transit millage.

  3. By Joseph
    May 6, 2014 at 9:27 am | permalink

    What time do the voting polls close? I am at work all day and would like to get out to vote. Do I have to vote at the precinct near my home or can I go to the nearest voting place from work?

  4. May 6, 2014 at 9:29 am | permalink

    Re: [3]

    Polls close at 8 p.m. You have to vote in your home precinct, where you’re registered.

  5. By Steve Bean
    May 6, 2014 at 9:45 am | permalink

    Joseph’s question raises an interesting issue. It’s a bit antiquated to need to vote at a particular location (let alone in person, as opposed to online, but that’s a separate matter).

  6. By Joseph
    May 6, 2014 at 9:59 am | permalink

    In the near future, I can see a turning point where traditional voting polls becomes outdated and secure online voting becomes the norm. The difference in voting turnout will be tremendous.

  7. By Marie
    May 6, 2014 at 10:28 am | permalink

    As a Saline resident, it’s frustrating that I have to just sit back and wait to see the outcome of the election. My community would benefit from an expansion of services.

  8. By Larry Baird
    May 6, 2014 at 11:46 am | permalink

    Four of us from my family were voters #69 thru #72 at Skyline around 11:15.

  9. By TJ
    May 6, 2014 at 11:47 am | permalink

    re [3]: apparently your elected officials don’t agree. They didn’t want to participate in county-wide expansion of AATA services. For example, search for “Saline” in this Chronicle article: [link]

  10. May 6, 2014 at 11:50 am | permalink

    At about 11:00 I voted at combined AA precincts 1-5 and 1-6. I was voter 104. The workers said this was better than they had expected.

  11. By Julie Grand
    May 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm | permalink

    I was voter #336 at Tappan/AA 3-3 around 11:30. It was a beautiful day for a walk to the polls!

  12. By Diane argus
    May 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm | permalink

    Considering the cost of holding an election, why couldn’t this issue have been put on the august primary? Just like the aata apportions out it’s budget, this seems like misspending the tax payers dollars.

  13. By Leon Bryson
    May 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm | permalink

    I ran to the polls at around 10:45 – Abbott Elementary School 5-10. Met a few neighbors and had some great discussions. I was voter number 75! I was so excited to place my vote that I ran 5 miles around the neighborhood! There is nothing more refreshing than our democratic process…and a beautiful sunny day in May!

  14. May 6, 2014 at 1:39 pm | permalink

    Sabra was voter 151 at combined AA precincts 1-5 and 1-6 (Northside School) a few minutes ago.

  15. By Alexis DiLeo
    May 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm | permalink

    My husband and I, with kids in tow, were #1 and #2 voters in 5-10 at Abbott Elementary at precisely 7:00 am. My 3-year old son also thought we were going boating.

  16. May 6, 2014 at 2:24 pm | permalink

    Because I don’t like the photo ID law, I show my driver-license sized US passport card which was kinda fun. “What state is this?” “I can’t scan it.” But the worker quickly found me in the database using my name……whew!

  17. By Eric Boyd
    May 6, 2014 at 2:32 pm | permalink

    Was voter #151 at Bach this morning at 8:45. My little helper and I both got “I voted” stickers.

  18. By Steve Bean
    May 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm | permalink

    When told at Dicken by the poll worker that I needed to show ID, I replied that my understanding was that we didn’t need to do that in order to vote. While she was saying that if I had it I needed to show it or else I needed to sign the back of the application-to-vote form, a male poll worker behind her chimed in to say that they needed it to make sure that I am who I say I am. I gave it to her and she scanned it. Apparently, “show” is a euphemism for something more than that. Also, since I had signed the *front* of the form, I wondered what good it would do to also sign the back. Maybe Larry can explain all this tomorrow.

  19. By Jack Eaton
    May 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm | permalink

    Re (12), Placing this millage on the May ballot means the AAATA will be able to collect the new tax in the summer tax bill that goes out in July. If they had waited until the August primary or the November general election, the first collection of the new millage would have been the summer 2015 taxes.

    The timing is important because many of the planned improvements will rely on the purchase of new buses. It takes about 18 months from the date when you order a bus until it is delivered. AAATA will have two tax collections to accumulate the funds for these new buses. Until recently, federal funds were generally used to buy buses. Changes to the federal rules don’t allow that use of federal dollars now.

    I don’t think there is anything nefarious about presenting this millage question in May. It is just good timing for the overall plan of rolling out the new services, if the millage passes.

  20. By Chai
    May 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm | permalink

    I love this ‘voters travelogue.’ It reads, for me, like a day at work and it is nice to see that from the passenger’s POV. I drive AAATA buses. Thanks for all your inimitable coverage!

  21. By TJ
    May 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm | permalink

    Oops! In my comment in [9] i meant to refer to [7] (the person from Saline) not [3].

    We voted at Slauson (5-4 and 5-5) at 4 PM, and were numbers 429 and 430.

  22. By Linda Diane Feldt
    May 6, 2014 at 5:54 pm | permalink

    Voter number 258 at 5:15 pm Ward 5, Precinct 2, Bach School. That seems very low for this precinct. I voted yes for transit expansion.

  23. May 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm | permalink

    The turnout is not low for a special election. It may even approach the turnout for primaries.

  24. By Heather E.
    May 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm | permalink

    Voted at Pioneer High School around 6:30, and I was #389.

  25. May 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm | permalink

    Iacta alea est. The die is cast.

    The polls are now closed.

  26. By Leon Bryson
    May 6, 2014 at 8:12 pm | permalink

    Results from 5-10: Yes – 240 No – 80

  27. By Leon Bryson
    May 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm | permalink

    Results from 5-11: Yes – 479 No – 154

  28. By Lisa
    May 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm | permalink

    So I put off doing my due diligence on this topic until last week. On the philosophical side of mass transit I was a “yeah”, but not willing to commit until I saw where the $ were going. I, like so many others, are darn tired of corporate welfare, so upon confirming that this initiative would be public money spent on a public-owned, aka gov’t agency, business I was at ease. I gave this expanded initiative an affirmative vote.

  29. May 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm | permalink

    Thanks, Leon!

  30. By Jeff Gaynor
    May 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm | permalink

    Leon (and Dave), I’m curious. How did you get the votes from those two precincts so quickly? The general question is how and to whom do the yes and no votes get released?

  31. May 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm | permalink

    Re: [30] The votes get released to the public when the polls shut down. A copy of the tapes that are printed out by the voting machines is posted on the door of the precinct. For today’s vote, because there was just the one question, some poll workers just called out the tally to anyone who was there waiting to get the very freshest results. No special credentials are required.

  32. May 6, 2014 at 10:14 pm | permalink

    (1) The bus millage is winning overwhelmingly. Most of the precincts are in, and every one so far has reported a “yes” majority. I admit to surprise that a millage with organized opposition did so well.

    (2) Voter ID is the law in Michigan, and election officials have to follow it. Election workers should be quick to point out the affidavit option, and voters who sign the identity affidavit (rather than produce an ID) should be able to vote without any problem.

    (3) Scanning the driver’s license is part of the state’s Electronic Poll Book (EPB) program, which is intended to move voting lines more quickly. Only a few years ago, each voter’s name had to be written out, by hand, in the paper poll book.

    (4) Making precinct results public at the polling place is a legally required security measure, to make sure the numbers are not fiddled with later on.

    (5) Online voting is not going to happen any time soon, because total security and a secret ballot are very difficult to achieve simultaneously.

  33. By Glacial Erratic
    May 7, 2014 at 3:38 am | permalink

    Larry, re: 3 yet again—-the issue is that the poll workers are asking specifically for drivers’ licenses, which are NOT required and not the only form of acceptable ID. We get that when that’s the ID people proffer, it makes the swiping etc easier, but the implication that a license is required to vote is wrong. This has been pointed out before.

  34. By TJ
    May 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm | permalink

    I have a friend in Washington State, where they vote by mail with print ballots. She is concerned about possible coercion (e.g. abusive spouse, stuff like that). Something I hadn’t really thought about before she brought it up, but I can definitely see where allowing people to vote anywhere (or specifically, at home) could be an issue.