East Lansing gets ready for Nov. 7 elections

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Election season is just around the corner on Nov. 7; not every community has an election in the state, but East Lansing’s City Charter requires odd-year elections.  Preparations are in full swing to make sure precincts are ready to go.

In the 2020 election, there were questions about the security of the election equipment’s security. This year, Interim City Clerk Marie Wicks explains how East Lansing ensures their systems are safe for the community. 

“Everything is locked up in a very secure room that only our office has access to, and our IT folks, that’s very, very limited,” said Wicks. “In 2018, Homeland Security ruled that elections are critical infrastructure, which we know is that our election equipment is not on the internet, or tabulators are not on the internet. They receive routine maintenance from the vendor under the observation of us and our vendor. I trust them, and everything is password-protected. Everything involving an election must involve a Republican and a Democrat. A polling location must have a minimum of three workers.”

In addition to voter security, The East Lansing City Council, in their Sept. 19 meeting, approved early election voting that will start Monday, Oct. 4, and go through Nov. 4, giving voters greater access and flexibility for voting. Also, absentee ballots are now out and can be turned in up to 14 days before the election.

“What we are trying to do, even though it is not yet required, because it’s a local election, and we want to be prepared for the primary next year, we are piloting an early voting center,” said Wicks. “It will have the same check-in process as Election Day, but the difference will be that voters can put their ballots through the tabulator.”

Before the community goes to cast their vote, many resources are available to inform them about election proposals and candidates. 

The League of Women’s Voters, a nonpartisan group that has been around for 104 years since the end of suffrage, put together a resource called Vote411 that’s been around since 2006, that voters can access to see what’s on their ballot, check voter registration, find polling places, and discover upcoming debates in their areas.

“The tool Vote411 will tell you what’s on your ballot, and all the candidates answer the same questions about the area,” said the President of the LWV Lansing area, Donna Mullins. “You decide, these are the people I want to vote for, you just click them, and then, it’ll email you all the things that you decided, and you can take that to your absentee ballot or the, to the voting place so, it just makes things easier.”

A second available resource is an award-winning one for best Campus engagement.  MSUVote is a nonpartisan campus committee that strives to increase the number of registered student voters, inform and educate students on both candidates and the issue, and bolster student participation on election day.  Their tool allows students to take a Qualtrics survey that asks three questions: Where would they like to vote, how they want to vote, and whether they would like to do an absentee or in-person vote.

“We take that information from the survey and send them a nice, neat email with exactly what they need to do to get registered, and how to request an absentee ballot or where they need to go to vote, so it’s not overwhelming,” said Democratic Engagement Coordinator Erin Kramer.

“We’re bringing candidates to campus in partnership with ASMSU for a city council forum since this November 7 is a local election; we think that it’s important, since those city council members represent a lot of MSU students in East Lansing, to have them come to campus and have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas to generate informed voters,” said Kramer. 

The local elected officials are the ones that affect your day-to-day lives.

“One of my favorite sayings is you can’t fight city hall but you who sits in it,” said Mullins. With this being a local election, many people are concerned about zoning, sidewalks, snow removal, and recycling a gazillion things. “When you vote, it makes a difference, and here’s the proof: people had to die to get that right.”    

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