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Ann Arbor satellite clerk’s office at U-M registers thousands to vote

A look at the new Ann Arbor City Council satellite office in the UMMA.
A look at the new Ann Arbor City Council satellite office in the UMMA. (Sarah M. Parlette / WDIV)

ANN ARBOR – The City Clerk’s satellite office inside the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art has registered more than 2,600 students to vote since opening on Sept. 22.

Each day, the location has been registering between 150 and 200 students. As of Oct. 13, more than 2,900 voted in person at the museum or by returning their ballots at UMMA’s drop box.

First-time voter and U-M junior Riley Friedman said his experience at the satellite office on campus was quick and easy.

“I’m from New York and I registered for the state of Michigan here at the clerk’s office,” he said in a statement. “I just showed up, registered in less than five minutes and voted right away. They helped me with everything, explaining what to do, filling out forms and telling me where to go. It was all just very easy and helpful.”

The deadline to register to vote in Michigan either by mail or online is Oct. 19.

Public policy student Meredith Days has been volunteering at the clerk’s office to help others with the voting process.

“Lots of out-of-state students move to Michigan and are able and eligible to vote here, but might not know how to do it, especially because they don’t have a Michigan driver’s license,” Days said in a statement. “Now, if they’re an out-of-state student, they can’t do online registration but can fill out a paper form here, register to vote and then get an absentee ballot in less than 10 minutes.”

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She is part of a team of 40 students who volunteer at the satellite office, who also volunteer at the U-M Ginsberg Center. The center launched the nonpartisan Big Ten Voting Challenge in 2017 to increase student voter registration and turnout on at all 14 Big Ten schools.

The satellite office was launched by U-M Stamps School of Art & Design professors Stephanie Rowden and Hannah Smotrich to increase voter turnout.

U-M in Ann Arbor tripled its student voting rate in 2018 at 41%, compared to 14% in 2014.

“We absolutely want and need our students to be bringing their perspectives to the ballot box into this election,” Erin Byrnes, Democratic Engagement and Big Ten Voting Challenge leader at the Ginsberg Center, said in a statement.

“We’re all living in the context of COVID-19 and it can make people feel pretty powerless. But voting for those who are eligible is a way to exercise your power, make sure that your voices are heard. I think the power piece and knowing that you are doing something that will have a positive impact is really important.”

Historically, schools of U-M’s size have had student voter turnout in the high 40s and low 50s during presidential election years, according to a report by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

Byrnes said the center hopes to see a 75% voter turnout on campus this year.

“It’s been really exciting to see students, staff members and faculty across campus being creative about how to spread the word about voting, how to do it, the importance of doing it,” Kari Rea, recent U-M grad and Ginsberg’s content manager and social media marketer said in statement.

“And although so much of our work is happening from behind the screen now, it’s great to see people being engaged online and also in person in those socially distant, safe ways that we’re seeing at the city clerk’s office.”

Satellite office hours:

  • Now until Oct. 23: Weekdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • 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.

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Increased turnout has also been spurred by other efforts like the Creative Campus Voting Project, created by U-M Stamps School of Art & Design professors Stephanie Rowden and Hannah Smotrich. Their research brought together various campus partners to launch the satellite office.


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