City Council election Tuesday

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City Clerk Marie Wicks alongside the this election's absentee ballots and ballot tabulator.

City Clerk Marie Wicks alongside the this election’s absentee ballots and ballot tabulator.

By Jane Wagner
Entirely East Lansing

The East Lansing City Council election is Nov. 3. Although there are no ordinances to be voted on this election, three of the five council member positions are up for grabs. Six candidates are competing for these spots, which has been an exciting race to the finish.

“In East Lansing, we don’t directly elect our mayor,” said City Clerk Marie Wicks. “We elect five councilmembers and then at the very first meeting of the city council. . .I will hold an election for mayor among the council members.”

This procedure varies between cities and ultimately depends on the city’s charter. The charter is like the constitution for the city. East Lansing’s charter gives all council members an equal chance to become mayor, although some decide to opt out of being chosen for the position.

“In East Lansing,” said Wicks, “traditionally a person will serve as mayor for two to four years. It rotates. Traditionally in East Lansing, the mayor is really just another council member that happens to run the meetings. That individual needs to be very well-versed in parliamentary procedure.”

The current mayor, Nathan Triplett, is running for city council again. If elected, he will again have the chance to be reelected as mayor, or as mayor pro tem. Also running for council are Erik Altmann, Shanna Dreheim, Mark Meadows, Steve Ross and Jermaine Ruffin.

“We have a general sense after the election where we’re going to go in terms of who’s the mayor and who’s the mayor pro tem,” said Wicks. “You never know how it’s going to turn out, though. I prepare the oath of office for each of the council members. Then I prepare five oaths of office for mayor and five oaths of office for mayor pro tem just to be safe.”

There are 17 precincts in East Lansing. Five of these are on Michigan State’s campus, which have four polling locations. For residents that turned their voting registration in by Oct. 5, there are in-person and absentee voting options available. The polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

“Anyone in line at eight can vote,” said Wicks. “Even if there’s a line around the corner, what I typically suggest my election inspectors to do is send out someone to the end of the line, so anyone after that point is not eligible to vote. If you’re in line, even if you’re not in the building, you’re still eligible.”

“I’m actually so excited to vote in this election,” said first-time voter Madison Blondin. “I know it’s only for city council, but this is the first time I’ve taken the time to educate myself about candidates and the first time I’ll legally be able to enter the poll booth.”

Although MSU students account for a large percentage of East Lansing’s overall population, only a fraction take the time to register themselves and vote in city elections. For the May election, approximately 1,200 students showed up to vote. This is roughly equivalent to the number of absentee ballots the city receives each election.

“You can mark your ballot ahead of time but it isn’t actually counted until election day. People have until 8 p.m. on election day to come in with their ballot. Those ballots are from all 17 precincts. In a contest of eight thousand to ten thousand people, that could be significant.”

Voters are encouraged to reexamine the platforms of the six candidates before Nov. 3 rolls around to ensure they are voting for the people they believe will best serve the East Lansing community.

“Results are unofficial until the Ingham County Board of Canvassers goes through all our paperwork, making sure we dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s,” said Wicks. “We know unofficially, right on election night. For a city council election, knock on wood, we should know by 10:30-11 p.m.”

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