Absentee ballots popular with East Lansing voters

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Voting absentee

A Michigan State student votes absentee for the first time.

By Ben Muir
MI First Election

Those voting absentee in this year’s Michigan primary have until the day polls open, March 8, to mail or hand deliver a ballot to City Hall in East Lansing. 

Residents across the age spectrum are voting absentee for a score of reasons, but the recurring label is convenience.

Dick Tuttle began voting absentee every year following his 65th birthday. Tuttle wouldn’t disclose his age, but he has voted absentee for 20 years. The only physical effort required is the drive to City Hall and back, he says.

“That’s the truth. That’s all that’s required,” Tuttle said. “You don’t have to wait around in line.”

Absentee Ballot

An East Lansing resident, 82, turns in his absentee ballot.

Another East Lansing resident, 82, who asked not to be named, is voting by absentee ballot for this year’s Michigan primary. He appreciated the option to fill out a ballot at home. Mulling over a decision at a polling location can be overwhelming, potentially leading to mistakes, he said.  

“Most people don’t read it until they have to stand there and vote,” he said. “And some of the language is very technical. People might want to think about how they feel about a millage let’s say, to allow something to happen, or a school to this or that.” 

Christopher Neville, 60, is a part-time student at Lansing Community College voting absentee for the first time. He has met one of six reasons that allow voting absentee, which is being over 60. Neville says students are a focal point in elections, and must become aware of the importance of voting. “There are a lot of issues that involve students and their futures,” Neville said.

Christopher Neville

Christopher Neville, 60, votes absentee for the first time.

 For Izabella Debarbaro, a clinical instructor for the college of nursing at Michigan State, voting absentee was refreshing. She worried about missing a deadline, and making a mistake while filling out paperwork. But when finished, she conceded that the process was “super easy.” 

Izabella Debarbaro

Izabella Debarbaro, along with her daughter, fills out an absentee ballot. Debarbaro will be in Chicago with her family during the week of March 8.

Of the younger demographic, 19-year-old Ryan Geiser prefers voting in a traditional booth, but appreciates that an absentee ballot is available, in case of conflicting agendas. 

“I like being a part of the physical process,” Geiser said. “But with all the new restrictions coming into effect, it’s going to be easier and easier to vote absentee instead.”

This year the primary will be held amid spring break at Michigan State. A wave of students will miss the opportunity to vote if they don’t file absentee. 

Moreover, Geiser worries that millennials aren’t getting out to vote to begin with. That absence of voting might hurt candidates that cater to the youths’ values, he says. 

Ryan Geiser

Ryan Geiser, 19, votes absentee. Geiser will be out-of-town during the primary.

“The under-25 class is so influential, and so few of us vote. I mean we can really, really swing elections,” Geiser said. “Personally, I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, and he wins 80 percent of millennials. But the turnout in Nevada was only 19 percent of that.” 

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