Slices of life from East Lansing elections

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Taylor Zachar, MSU sophomore and Computer Science Engineer major, on his way out of precinct 1, Brody Hall.

Noah Menner

Taylor Zachar, MSU Computer Science Engineer sophomore, on his way out of precinct 1, Brody Hall.

The presidential election means the world to East Lansing resident Evangelos Papoulis, especially since it’s his first time voting. He hopes that everyone makes it to their polling locations.

“I think the voter turnout is going to be very high today because of the importance of this election,” Papoulis said after voting at Brody Hall. “Everyone is very emotionally charged for this election.”

Taylor Zachar, Michigan State University computer science engineering sophomore, believes that every vote matters in this election.

“I think my vote made a decent impact today. I am personally more socially liberal and voted for Hillary Clinton,” said Zachar. “She adopted a lot of Bernie Sanders’ policies which I was really in favor of. Also, I just really don’t want Trump to win, so I think one vote for Hillary means us Democrats are a step closer to a victory.”

Brody Hall, Precinct 1 for Ingham county.

Noah Menner

Brody Hall, Precinct 1 for Ingham county.

As the election day rolls on, some MSU students feel that it’s important to vote based on candidates’ policy.

“Foreign policy is a key issue that was a huge reason why I decided to come out and vote on this election day,” said Katie Kalass, an MSU journalism sophomore. “Every vote matters. People who decide not to vote may not know it, but it creates a snowball effect around their peers, and now there are multiple people that do not vote.”

Noah Menner

*****

Sidney Anderson, a student at Michigan State University, said she knew exactly how she was going to fill out her ballot before arriving to vote at Martin Luther Chapel.

“The stupid… poll worker tried to turn me away because my driver’s license has my home town as my address on it” Anderson said. “I know I’m registered to vote here in East Lansing because I voted here in the primary.”

sidneyanderson

Sidney Anderson showing off her “I voted” sticker.

Anderson said she knows Michigan voters don’t need to have photo ID to cast their ballots, and she thinks the poll worker knew that as well. Grabbing her blue hair and gesturing at her clothes, Anderson said she thought she was harassed because of her appearance.

“After arguing with her and telling her I didn’t need an ID to vote as long as I signed [an affidavit]. Finally she just told me that my ID was fine and I voted and left,” Anderson said.

Other voters pour up and down the stairs to the precinct 2 voting location, some walking over to the church’s cider and coffee offering
before filing out of the building.

-Zach Robertson

*****

At Martin Luther Chapel on Abbot Road, the atmosphere is pretty chill, but there is still a steady stream of voters coming in and out of the polling area on the level below.

The church didn’t seem as hectic as some other polls might’ve been, it was just smooth enough for the atmosphere to stay calm and relaxed.

When voters entered on the ground floor, they were greeted with coffee and directed kindly downstairs by Billy Seeger.

Billy Seeger, VP of Martin Lither Chapel

Kenedi Robinson

Billy Seeger, VP of Martin Lither Chapel

Seeger is an MSU grad with a degree in civil engineering as well as vice president of the church. It was Seeger’s turn to greet voters as they came.

Seeger has been a Lansing native all of his life and even met his fiancée in that very church.

Seeger had been around almost two hours and said it had been a larger influx earlier that morning of people trying to get their votes in before their work day began.

“The most interesting thing to happen was probably someone who didn’t find out until they got here that they had registered incorrectly and weren’t registered at all.”

According to Seeger, things were running fairly smoothly from what he had seen.

-Kenedi Robinson

*****

The bottom of the backside of the ballot at IM East’s polling location, which contains both Precincts 13 and 14, lists the options for East Lansing’s School Board. Board President Nell Kuhnmuench, who is not up for re-election this year, was out campaigning for two incumbents, Dr. Erin Graham and Dr. Kath Edsall.

“Our local elections have a huge impact on what’s going on in our daily lives,” Kuhnmuench said. “The School Board has an impact on every child in our public schools. It helps the community when we have a community that’s engaged in our schools.”

With the presidential race in the spotlight of this election, Kuhnmuench stressed the importance of local ones too, saying they have just as much, if not more, impact on communities.

“Just like national politics and all the way down the line, it’s very important to know the most we can and vote the best we can and the most responsibly we can according to how we each feel,” Kuhnmuench said. “The individuals we are electing are making the policies that are impacting the lives we live.”

MSU dietetics junior Arturo Gregory, a first-time voter who felt the need to “exercise his right as a citizen,” was one of the many students who filled out their ballot on election day. Gregory said he voted for local elections too, but plans to be more informed the next time around.

“I kinda felt bad because I’m not from this area, but here I am determining the future government of the people who have been here,” Gregory said. “I feel like this is a learning experience and in the future I plan to do my research not just in big election races but the local ones too. They have a big impact even though they get kinda forgotten.”

Junior Arturo Gregory stands outside IM East Facility on Michigan State's campus. Gregory voted at the precinct for the first time, and even took part in the local elections.

Nathaniel Bott

Junior Arturo Gregory stands outside IM East Facility on Michigan State’s campus. Gregory voted at the precinct for the first time, and even took part in the local elections.

Although Gregory didn’t know much about the local races, he voted for Graham and Edsall for East Lansing School Board at the encouragement of Kuhnmuench. Regardless, Kuhnmuench is grateful to have such a large presence of young people who are active and willing to participate in local elections.

“The rules have been changed on how young people can vote, and I think it is important that the city sees the students, who make up a significant part of our population every year, as a blessing. They bring a lot of economic benefit, they bring energy and they bring a lot to our schools. It’s phenomenal.”

– Nathaniel Bott

*****

Inside a campus gym, change was made. On Tuesday, within the walls of IM East, hordes of Michigan State University students submitted their first-ever ballots.

“It’s exciting, just that we’re old enough to vote now and it’s the first election that we can vote in,” freshman psychology major Lauren Yecbick, 18, said.

Yecbick and many others took the trip from nearby dormitories and classes to IM East, one of four voting locations on the MSU campus. The facility housed two precincts.

Patrick Kurtz showing off his "I voted" sticker.

Isaac Constans

Patrick Kurtz showing off his “I voted” sticker.

Neuroscience major Patrick Kurtz was voting for the first time, as well, and was impressed by the community’s enthusiasm.

“You can support whoever you want,” Kurtz, 19, said. “That’s America, and that’s the best part about it. But I think, yeah, a lot of people were very open about who they wanted to vote for, while it maybe got a little heated sometimes.”

Across campus, the university and members of MSU undertook several initiatives to smooth out the process. Yecbick’s professor canceled writing class in order to give students the maximum amount of time to submit their ballots.

Convenience was a central factor in persuading students to vote in East Lansing. Being from West Bloomfield, Elizabeth Kassa was too far away to go home to vote, and she registered in East Lansing to make her submission easier.

“I saw the chalk on sidewalks telling everybody where to vote,” said Kassa, who stayed in Holmes Hall just a short walk away from IM East.

The on-campus procedure was well explained to him and relatively seamless, Kurtz said. Although he had to wait 30 minutes in line, Kurtz always knew where his location was and when he could vote.

By the end of the process, Kurtz had no misgivings or regrets about voting on campus. He said it was easier than voting absentee, well explained and a process that he would do again next year.

“It’s good to be finally able to vote,” Kurtz said. “Being on my own, it makes it feel a little more real, I guess—actually getting some of that personal decision in there.”

Isaac Constans

*****

A group of volunteers were being trained to canvas at 2:15 p.m. at the Democratic Party headquarters in Lansing.

“We’ve been busy all morning,” said one worker checking people in by the door.

Nobody in the crowd talked. A man in a red Democratic party T-shirt greeted me.

“Let’s step outside, so we don’t disrupt the training,” he said, and then passed on a number for Mitchell Rivard, Hillary Clinton’s Michigan communications director.

Signs are scattered across the lawn Democratic Headquarters on Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Nov. 8, 2016, Election Day.

Stevie Pipis

Signs are scattered across the lawn at Democratic Headquarters on Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Nov. 8, 2016, Election Day.

“We are heavily invested in Michigan,” Rivard said, noting the party has 35 offices in the state.

The party has been trying to increase its presence on Michigan State’s campus.

“We’ve been out canvassing all weekend, and that includes the campus,” Rivard said.

“We go out and give information about polling locations and how to vote. We also go out and promote Dems up and down the ballot.”

“We do one-on-one conversations with people about the issues and why they should go out to vote,” Rivard said.

During election day, Rivard receives field reports, but he declined to discuss what was on the reports.

According to Rivard, there will be an election party for the Democratic Party at 8 p.m. at the MGM Grand in Detroit.

— Stevie Pipis

*****

Outside, the MSU Student Union stands against the dreary early-November afternoon sky, the wind pushing heaps of orange leaves against its walls. Taped along the Union’s fence is a makeshift yellow sign encouraging voters. Inside, well over 75 to-be voters queued to receive their poll book, most of them students.

Precinct 12, MSU Student Union. A line is formed in wait to vote.

Chris Hung

Precinct 12, MSU Student Union. A line is formed in wait to vote.

“It’s been crazy today,” said Cathy Scott, the Union’s precinct chair. “It’s never been empty today and it’s amazing how many people are turning out to vote.”

Another election worker at the Union, David Scott, said that there should more poll books to speed up the process.

Trevor Earley, a junior political science and theater major, was in line for an hour and 15 minutes, but said his drive to defeat Donald Trump brought him to vote.

“I was a Bernie guy, but I had to vote for Hillary,” Earley said.

Not everyone who showed up to vote was able to — not right away, at least. The precinct chair along with nine other election workers constantly dealt with voters going to the wrong location to vote, misregistered voters and other issues.

“I found out that I wasn’t registered to vote here, but I’m driving home to vote right now,” said Madeline Smith, an art education major.

— Chris Hung and Caitlin Taylor

*****

This is the second time that Becky Pelle will be the chair for the election at Edgewood Elementary School and Early Childhood Center.

The school is the voting location for Precinct 9 in Okemos.

“I’m here an hour and a half before the polls open,” she said.

Pelle, along with other workers, arrived  early in the morning to set up the polls. The tables and chairs are already set up by the township when Pelle gets there at 5:30 a.m.

Becky Pelle, chairperson of the polling location for Precinct 9 in Okemos.

Stevie Pipis

Becky Pelle, chairperson of the polling location for Precinct 9 in Okemos.

Pelle has to make sure the computers work, to keep count of the votes, and have the ballots set out. She double checks the tables to make sure each one has supplies.

During the day, Pelle’s job is a little different.

“I make sure things stay orderly, I help people who have questions about the ballots, and I make sure everyone follows the rules,” she said.

“The morning was crazy,” Pelle said. “We were busy until about 2:30.”

She said a little past 3 p.m. was the slowest the location had been all day.

“We usually pick up again at dinner time, around 5:30,” Pelle said.

Pelle said she enjoys being the chair.

“It’s a lot of fun working the election. Fun to be on a different side of it, and not just a voter. It’s fun to see how it works and comes together,” she said.

*****

Voters cast their ballots at Edgewood United Church for precincts 9 and 10 on the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2016. Lines had been steady at about 45 minutes from the door, campaign volunteers said.

Ray Wilbur

Voters cast their ballots at Edgewood United Church for precincts 9 and 10 on the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2016. Lines had been steady at about 45 minutes from the door, campaign volunteers said.

****

For pre-med freshman Randi Wilkins, walking in Brody Hall and casting her ballot for the first time on Nov. 8 was neither exciting nor discouraging.

“I’m just voting to say that I voted,” Wilkins said. “I’m not sure necessarily that one single vote makes a difference.”

Discouraged by the election, Wilkins said she fulfilled her civic duty, but not with an excited disposition.

Wilkins said in order to combat the possibility of a Republican nominee Donald Trump presidency she decided to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Randi Wilkins poses for a photo at Brody Hall on Nov. 8, 2016.

Rachel Fradette

Randi Wilkins poses for a photo at Brody Hall on Nov. 8, 2016.

“I wanted to vote for Jill Stein, but a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump,” Wilkins said. “Third party candidates don’t really have a chance.”

With a negative outlook, Wilkins hopes to see Clinton win the election and she believes it will happen if millennials continue to turn out to the polls.

“I think Hillary will tonight,” Wilkins said. “Even if Donald Trump gets elected there’s no way he can change everything about America that is not how politics work.”

Wilkins said Clinton’s experience in office and her democratic policies ultimately convinced her to vote.

“This election is different because I don’t find either of them honest,” Wilkins said. She expanded by going into the honesty of the Obama administration and her lack of trust in both candidates.

With the election over, Wilkins said she is happy to see it end and believes America became negative throughout the process of the election.

“We didn’t have an honest candidate,” Wilkins said.

– Rachel Fradette