East Lansing Voters Face Three-Hour Lines as Same-Day Registration Overwhelms City Clerk’s Office

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 9:36 pm
Chris Gray

Above: A portion of the line of voters at 8:30 p.m. at East Lansing's City Hall tonight (photo by Alice Dreger).

Hundreds of mostly MSU student voters faced up to a three-hour wait to vote at East Lansing City Hall, as the City Clerk’s staff was overwhelmed trying to process the flood of voters who wanted to register and vote in the presidential primary election today.

The staff had eight people deputized to process same-day registrations, a new voting ability made capable by Proposal 3, which passed in November 2018 and made easier the voting process in Michigan.

East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Aaron defended City Clerk Jennifer Shuster’s handling of the election, saying nobody could be have predicted the flood of new voters and the new rules allowing people to both register and vote on Election Day.

He said for election security purposes only a select number of people were trained and able to interface with the Michigan Secretary of State system. City Hall was the only place in East Lansing that citizens could both register and vote on Election Day.

“All the clerk’s staff are here. This is a learning experience,” Stephens said. “Our clerk’s office is doing everything they can. This is the first day that had same-day registration, in a college town, post-Spring Break.”

“Obviously we’re going to be ready for this next time,” Stephens said.

Above: Aaron Stephens (behind the window) was still helping voters near 10:30 p.m. on election night (photo by Alice Dreger)

But Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner who represents a part of East Lansing saw the lines and was irate.

“This is unacceptable. This is what happens when you don’t plan,” he said. “This is like the Trump administration getting rid of all the epidemiologists and then wondering how to handle this new disease.”

It was unclear how many potential voters stood in the extremely long line that roped through the corridors of City Hall and walked away in frustration. Teron Kinnard, a sophomore at MSU, said he’d thought of walking away but had already sunk his time in line and didn’t want his time to be a total loss.

Kinnard had been registered in East Lansing previously, but he was turned away from his polling location on campus and told to go downtown to re-register because he had moved.

Olivia Berutti, 19, a sophomore from Iron Mountain, didn’t get her ballot into her Upper Penninsula address in time for the election, so chose to change her registration to East Lansing on election day.

She busily calculated math homework on her smart phone as she stood in line, with an assignment due at 10 p.m. She had arrived at the polls at 5:30 and was still waiting almost three hours later. “I think it’s important to vote and also do your homework.”

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