What a difference a year made in election turnout

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After three years as an election officer for East Lansing, Tim Sigmon has seen the full spectrum of voter turnout, including a frenzied 2016 presidential election that set record highs.

2017’s election was close to the bottom of that spectrum.

“I was expecting around 200 voters,” said Sigmon, captain at East Lansing’s 13th precinct. Around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, he adjusted his projections. “We’ll be lucky to break 30 at this rate.”

Sigmon was one of two precinct leaders at Michigan State’s intramural facilities, located on Shaw Lane within the MSU campus. East Lansing’s Precinct 1 in MSU’s Brody complex had about 15 votes cast by 2:30 p.m. Precinct 2, north of Grand River Avenue and next to the East Lansing Library, had just over 200 by 3:30 p.m.

Turnout in this non-presidential year was expected to decline compared to 2016’s polarizing presidential election. However, even with an MSU student running for — and winning — a place on East Lansing’s City Council, Spartan students seemed more willing to take a run on the treadmills inside the IM facilities than place a vote.

“I had no real interest in voting this year,” said Alex Cavelier, a sophomore business student at MSU. “I was unfamiliar with the issues, and I didn’t really have any strong opinions on anything on the ballot.”

At the Edgewood United Church on N. Hagadorn Road, another location with two precincts, election officials told much of the same story.

“We’re probably at our busiest right now,” said precinct captain Gary Beaudoin, as about four people were voting simultaneously. “We serve a lot of residents for the city of East Lansing, and we still expected more than what we got.”

Beaudoin explained that precincts voting at the church were no more likely than others to receive high voter turnout.

After votes were counted across the county, East Lansing rejected a potential new income tax and Mason approved a $69.7 million bond issue to update schools.