Long Lines, Cold Weather Didn’t Stop Detroit Voters

Voter turnout was high in Detroit yesterday as voters formed long lines in chilled air to cast their ballot. Voters at some precints reported a 3.5-hour wait while at others there were no lines at all.
The line at Leland Missionary Baptist Church was wrapped around the building at 9:00am on Tuesday, and the line kept growing.

One voter, Loraine Tanner, 35, of Detroit, said she had been in line since 7:00am and was just leaving at 9:30am after voting. She said there was already a line when she got to her precinct at 7. Tanner said she has voted in every election since she was eligible to vote at 18 years of age, and that the wait was nothing compared to what her relatives had to deal with in recent history.

“It’s worth it,” she said or her 2.5 hour wait to vote. “I feel like it’s my power, it’s my right to vote. This election is more important than four years ago because of all the progress we made. It would be a terrible thing to go back now.”
Another voter, Edward Kemp, standing in line to vote at the West side precinct said he just moved back home to

Detroit from New Mexico and was excited to vote. “I can’t wait to vote for Obama,” he said. “The Romney guy scares me, it’s like he’s trying to sell our country like it’s a company.”

For Caryin Jones who had been waiting in line for over an hour, the wait—no matter how long— was something she was willing to endure. Jones, an in-home healthcare worker said she and wanted to make sure that Proposal 4, one that would allow home care workers organize and collectively bargain, passes. “I don’t care if I’m out here all day, this is my right. It’s not that bad. People stand in line all the time for things they don’t even need so I don’t see what the big deal is,” she said.

The line of voters at many polling stations is estimated to make for a two-hour wait, something one voter, Diane Johnson of Detroit, doesn’t think should be so long. “They should have more polling stations, they should be more organized,” she said. But she, too, said she was prepared to wait as long as it took to vote.

One voter waiting in line at Bates Elementary school on the city’s East side said he had been there since 8:30, a two-hour wait that looked like it was going to turn into three. “What’s taking people so long?” Asked Javion Freeman, 34, of Detroit. “People should know what they’re voting for before they go in there. You’re wasting people’s time if you get in there and just stare at the ballot and take forever to decide.”

Most voters said they expected a long line, some brought their headphones, and many people brought their children to show them the importance of the democratic process.

“It was like this four years ago, maybe the line is a little longer this year, but people out there need to realize that voting is a civic duty and it takes time,” said Christine James who said she was waiting for over an hour. “I know our ancestors would laugh at us complaining about a little cold and a wait. Long lines are good. It shows the community is engaged.”

Voter lines varied at different precincts. At the St. Elizabeth Center on the city’s East side, there was no wait at all, and poll workers said there was a steady flow of people, but there had been no lines all day.

Another reason for long lines at some precincts aside from the strong voter turnout is the length of the ballot. Detroit’s ballot is two pages and double sided, and may take voters more time to navigate according to Detroit elections director Daniel Baxter.

While there were no major problems reported at the polls on Tuesday, one voter joked that there should be refreshments for those standing in long lines.

“We need hot coffee out here. We need hors d’oeuvres. That’s the only problem I see at the polls,” said Myra Jesse, 40, of Detroit. “I’ll stay out here as long at it takes, this is my voice, I get to have a say in how our country is run.

That’s something we didn’t always have.”  



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