Sanders supporters find fault with Michigan’s primary election process

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As results from the Michigan primary begin to fade into the background, members of the media and city clerks are facing the public’s frustrations.

On primary day, a number of city clerks’ offices experienced hold-ups in the voting process. Offices in college communities including East Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor were reported as having long lines and wait times, due in part to Michigan’s new policy that allows same-day voter registration.

“They had lines out the door. People waited in line for three to four hours just to register to vote and then vote,” said Kelly Collison, a lead organizer of Lansing for Revolution.

“There were kids standing in line to register to vote with their laptops out doing their homework and I walked past a group of guys that had stayed in line for two hours and they were like ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t do it anymore. I have to get my schoolwork done or I’m going to fail.’ It was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced,” Collison said.

MSU Students lined up at the City Clerk's Office working on homework

Mara Zumberg / Lansing for Revolution

MSU students work on assignments while waiting in line to vote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized this delay in the registration and balloting process in a press release labelling these issues as voter suppression.

With a large part of Sanders’ voter base consisting of young voters, many Bernie supporters who were left frustrated by the wait times in college communities. 

Uzair Bandagi, organizing director of Spartans for Sanders, said, “When you look at those photos of voter lines from East Lansing or Kalamazoo or Ann Arbor, you’re not going to see a single person over the age of let’s say 30 there. Because those people, they’ve been over the age of 18 for longer so they’ve had more opportunities to be registered to vote and to get experience with voting and all that. 

“Younger voters, they come into it and they don’t know anything about the voting process maybe until the day of and that’s not their fault. They’re honestly not taught [about the process] adequately in public education and even throughout college,” Bandagi said.

East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster agreed that better voter education would be necessary to encourage voter registration before election day.

Shuster said,“We definitely need more voter education, across the board, to encourage people to register before the two weeks prior to Election Day. With all of the options voters now have, why wait to register or even vote until Election Day?”

Early results discourage voting

Along with long delays, there are concerns that early reports about the results of the Michigan primary may have dissuaded voters from casting their ballot.

Bandagi said,“The issue is when you announce [a candidate’s victory] that early, while people are still in line, they leave the line.”

According to the Lansing State Journal, the Associated Press reported that Joe Biden had won Michigan around 8:45 p.m., while the last voter in East Lansing cast their ballot two hours later.

This frustration around early declarations of victory is not new. Many people took to Twitter to poke fun at candidates after issues in the Iowa Caucus prompted a slew of victory speeches from Democratic hopefuls. Despite this ribbing, some voters are taking issue with the way the media projects results.

Bandagi said, “They’re not even calling at the right time. If you call it after every county has had an adequate time to report, that’s one thing. If you start calling it 10 minutes after the polls close, it’s like what is the point of us even having an election if you’re just going to tell us who wins and who loses?”

Collison said, “There’s a lot of people that aren’t even voting right now and they’re not voting because they don’t think that their vote really counts, and it really matters. If you’re calling an election before people are done voting, how does your vote matter? How do any of those kids standing in line, how do their votes matter?”

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