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Ann Arbor community reflects on satellite City Clerk’s office

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) and the James and Anne Duderstadt Center hosted voting booths in conjunction with Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office for the 2022 Midterm Elections. At both locations, Ann Arbor residents were able to register to vote and then to request and submit an absentee ballot. The UMMA was open to voters from Sept. 27 to Nov. 8, — election day — and the Duderstadt Center was open from Oct. 12 to Nov. 8. A similar creative voting campaign was first seen on campus during the 2018 Election.

According to the above chart created in collaboration with Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office, around 3,000 voters registered same-day at the UMMA and around 1,000 voters registered same-day at the Duderstadt Center. 

The Creative Campus Voting Project, a non-partisan initiative at the School of Art & Design, spearheaded the design process for the two locations. Their goal was to transform the buildings into engaging and informative election hubs. Stephanie Rowden, associate professor in the School of Art & Design and co-lead of the Creative Campus Voting Project, said the project aimed to use art to create voting sites that draw in college voters, particularly on the U-M campus. 

“We’re really thinking about the whole student experience,” Rowden said. “How are they welcomed into the experience? … Who can help them (figure out) the process and answer any questions and get them ready if they choose to vote in Ann Arbor?”

Rowden said she wanted the installations to decorate the voting spaces, to help all voters connect with the issues and candidates they cared about on the 2022 midterm ballot. She said all of the resources and art were non-partisan to ensure the project would appeal to all voters.

“When you open up the ballot and it’s a really long document, it can look a lot like a standardized test,” Rowden said. “So we created an installation called the Ballot Wayfinder, which sort of allows you to walk through the partisan section of your ballot … We also had infographics that were (3-)dimensional that (had) explanations of the traditional races and also proposals.”

Edward Golembiewski, Washtenaw County’s director of elections, highlighted high voter turnout in the city of Ann Arbor overall. He told The Michigan Daily the City Clerk’s office saw a spike in voter registration on Election Day, including at the satellite offices on campus, which he attributed in part to the relatively new availability of same-day registration in the state. During the 2018 Election, Michigan voted to allow voters to register until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“The city didn’t finish processing all of those individuals that are registering in person on election day until close to 1:30 in the morning,” Golembiewski said. “In Michigan, same-day registration became possible after a constitutional amendment that was adopted in November 2018. So this is still a pretty new right that voters have in Michigan.”

Engineering senior Perry Sun said because he was an out-of-state student, he didn’t realize he was eligible to vote in the state of Michigan until he saw other out-of-state students registering to vote at the UMMA. He ultimately decided to wait in line, even though it took about three and a half hours for him to even make it into the building.

“I was optimistic to go there, register to vote and then vote,” Sun said. “I was more than happy to wait in that line. My voice was heard.”

Rowden said the project team was excited by how many people were served by the two on-campus voting centers. She said it was encouraging to see people come in not only to register and get their ballots, but also to ask questions about the electoral process and their rights as voters. She said the project is seeking feedback from students to help them improve the registration process for future elections.

“We’re already thinking towards 2024 and, of course, we’ll have different students and artists to come work with us,” Rowden said. “I’d be interested to hear about how we can help people have the full voting experience, but do it in a way that they don’t have to wait too long.”

Daily News Editor Sejal Patil can be reached at sejpatil@umich.edu.

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