Ann Arbor City Clerk to open satellite office at U-M Museum of Art

Move aims to increase student voter turnout

UMMA is housed inside the university's Alumni Memorial Hall (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The city of Ann Arbor has established a satellite office for the upcoming general election in a gallery space at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

The satellite office opens on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22 and will remain open through Nov. 3. Starting Sept. 24., U-M students, faculty and staff can register to vote and cast early in-person absentee ballots at UMMA.

The space will be Michigan’s first-ever satellite city clerk’s office on a university campus.

“This was a natural fit," Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry said in a statement. "As a community, we have been a leader in student voting rights for many years, as there are already several polling stations located in campus buildings. We are excited to be filling this need for our community, and our hope is that we will continue to collaborate during even year November elections in order to create ongoing access for voters at U-M and in Ann Arbor.”

Stephanie Rowden and Hannah Smotrich, professors at U-M Stamps School of Art & Design, kickstarted the effort as part of a longtime research project inspired by consistently low student voter turnout.

During the 2014 midterm elections, only 14 percent of U-M students voted. That number has greatly increased in recent years due to coordinated campaigns on campus. In the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms, 44 percent and 41 percent of U-M students voted, respectively. This was due to efforts like the Big Ten Voting Challenge, Turn Up Turnout and Creative Campus Voting Project launched by Rowden and Smotrich.

Wayfinding sign outside the Stenn Gallery on the museum's first floor. (University of Michigan)

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“The work that we do lies at the intersection of art and design and civic engagement, so we were thrilled that so many people were able to come together during this time to make this happen at UMMA,” Rowden said in a statement.

“Our goal was to make it very clear, easy and safe for students to vote,” Smotrich said in a statement. “We were able to transform a city clerk’s office, which is traditionally a bureaucratic, institutional space, into something that is beautiful and dynamic -- we hope that seeing this space will inspire students to vote.”

Edie Goldenburg, a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy who founded Turn Up Turnout in 2017, said the passing of Michigan’s Proposal 3 -- which added measures like same-day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration -- has made voting more user-friendly for college students.

“I think that this is a real game-changer,” said Goldenberg in a statement. “The office will essentially create a one-stop shop where students can register or update their addresses, pick up an absentee ballot, fill it out and then turn it in."

Over the past 10 months, UMMA has presented several exhibitions and programs focused on civic duty and engagement.

“Art museums, and campus art museums especially, are uniquely positioned to drive national dialogue around the issues that matter most in the world today,” Christina Olsen, director of UMMA, said in a statement. “We’ve been working to make good on that potential all year and we are excited to work with these partners to offer our space to the city of Ann Arbor to transform the museum into a true election hub and powerful site for democracy.”

Satellite office hours

  • Sept. 22-Oct. 23: Weekdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (with voter registration only for the first two days until absentee voting begins Sept. 24)
  • Oct. 24-Nov. 1: Weekdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Nov. 2: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Nov. 3: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

The satellite office is located in UMMA’s first floor Stenn Gallery at 525 S. State St. Only U-M students, faculty and staff intending to vote in Ann Arbor can visit. A valid M-Card is required to enter.

Members of the public are asked to visit the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office at 301 E. Huron St.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.