When I arrived at Michigan, I was elated to find that I could register with my South Quad address and vote in the Michigan primary on March 10. I knew that a vote in a swing state like Michigan was honestly more impactful than in my home state of Maryland, a solidly blue state. Registering was easy, and as the primary election grew near, I couldn’t wait to vote.
As I walked into the polling station, I felt my excitement bubble up. Having been politically engaged for so long but too young to vote, I felt that this primary signified a milestone in my life. Finally, I could declare a party, cast a ballot, and fulfill my duty as an American. Although it was just a primary election, I couldn’t pass up the chance to make my voice heard in choosing someone to be on the ballot in November.
The following critique of my voting experience in Michigan comes from my time working the polls in Maryland when I was in high school. As an election judge, I was able to set up informational signs instructing voters to turn off their cell phones and discard any electioneering material. I also helped voters cast their ballots and ensured that all ballots were counted by keeping track of printed receipts from the casting machines. I learned many of the common-sense guidelines that each polling station must follow to discourage voter fraud or confusion.
Upon entering my Michigan precinct, the first thing I noticed was the lack of signage. Signs to turn off cell phones, cover campaign paraphernalia, and those indicating a waiting area for disabled or elderly voters were nowhere to be found. The only sign was one outside the door that read “No Electioneering Within 100 Feet,” but there were various campaign signs stuck in the grass by the parking lot, certainly closer than 100 feet to the door. I thought this was odd, but I brushed it off and headed inside.
I don’t mean to accuse anyone of malicious intent or insinuate that my precinct was trying to stuff Democrat ballots into the box. I do believe, however, that the carelessness that I witnessed during my first election in Michigan was unacceptable.
As I was entering, a man left the polling station with a “Bernie” sticker on his jacket. I also thought that was odd. In Maryland, you’re not allowed to wear a political sticker unless you’re 100 ft away from the polling location. I honestly didn’t know the laws in Michigan, but I assumed it was also illegal here for the sake of keeping voting independent. After speaking to some in-state friends, I learned that I had assumed correctly.
The oddities and illegalities continued on from there. After traversing four hallways to find my precinct, as there were two in the polling building, I was excited to find the person checking voters in and the stack of ballots. I gave them my name and address, and they checked my M-card, or university-provided form of identification, before handing me a ballot.
The person who was handing out ballots, however, began to hand me the wrong one. I selected a Republican ballot at check-in, but the person handing out ballots was not the same as the one checking in. They looked at me, saw a young female college student, and grabbed a Democratic ballot. The person who checked me in noticed their fellow worker grabbed the wrong party’s ballot, and said, “Wait! That’s the wrong party.” I was inches away from receiving the wrong ballot in my first election.
Although I still felt noble when I was given an “I voted in Ann Arbor” sticker after casting the ballot and fulfilling my duty as an American, I was unimpressed with Michigan’s leniency.
I don’t mean to accuse anyone of malicious intent or insinuate that my precinct was trying to stuff Democrat ballots into the box. I do believe, however, that the carelessness that I witnessed during my first election in Michigan was unacceptable. I got lost on my way from bubbling in my candidate of choice to casting my ballot, coming close to an exit with no one stopping me from leaving with the ballot in my hand. When I eventually did find the place to cast ballots, the lady said “Oh, I didn’t see you there.” I was the only person voting in my precinct at this time.
At my first election, signage was poor, rules were not enforced, and I was almost handed the wrong ballot. Although I still felt noble when I was given an “I voted in Ann Arbor” sticker after casting the ballot and fulfilling my duty as an American, I was unimpressed with Michigan’s leniency. Compared to Maryland’s strict election rule enforcement, terrific signage and directions, and pride for electoral security, Michigan’s rules were well below what should be the standard for all states and elections.
Here’s to hoping that the general election restores my faith in Michigan’s democratic process.