University asks city of Ann Arbor to move polling locations out of dorms due to safety concerns
A number ofÂ Ann Arbor voters will cast their ballots at new polling locations in the city's Aug. 3 primary election when they decide contests for mayor and City Council, as well as several races at the county and state level.
The most notable changes will be felt by those accustomed to voting in dormitories on the University of Michigan campus. The university is asking the city to permanently relocate all polling places in the dorms to other areas on U-M's campus.
U-M's request was made following last November's general election, and an agreement was finalized this week.
U-M's Office of Government Affairs said the dorms no longer will be available for use as city polling locations due to increased concerns on campus regarding student safety. More simply put, the university doesn't want non-students and people with no affiliation to the university in the dorms.
"The university is pleased to continue offering polling places on campus, supporting the interests of voting students and nearby neighbors," said Jim Kosteva, a U-M spokesman. "We are also maintaining our commitment to student safety by limiting access to dormitories only to student residents and other authorized personnel. It simply was inconsistent with our security objectives to allow non-authorized, non-university personnel into dormitories on election days."
Officials said no particular incidents led to the decision to ask the city to pull polling stations out of the dorms.
In working with the city clerk's office, Kosteva said the university found it can adequately accommodate the city's needs in campus buildings like the Michigan Union, Michigan League, Palmer Commons and Pierpont Commons, which he argued are "far more public" in their access and hours of operation.
Here are the polling location changes:Â
- 1st Ward, 7th Precinct — moved from Bursley Hall to Pierpont Commons, 2101 Bonisteel Blvd.
- 2nd Ward, 2nd Precinct — moved from Mary Markley Hall to Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Ave.
- 3rd Ward, 1st & 2nd Precincts — moved from East Quad to Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave.
- 4th Ward, 1st Precinct — moved from South Quad to Michigan Union, 530 S. State St.
City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry said the city and the university were in mutual agreement that it was in the best interest of the predominately student voters in those precincts to have the polling locations remain on campus. She doesn't think it will impact voter turnout.
"It's a big change. It's a lot in one year to move this many precincts, but I understand," Beaudry said. "The university obviously is looking out for their students and they have a concern for security and non-students entering the dorms. I think moving to another building on campus is an acceptable alternative."
Beaudry said members from the Michigan Student Assembly's Voice Your Vote committee agreed the polling locations should remain on campus so student voters aren't disenfranchised. The student union buildings were chosen for their accessibility, prominence on campus, high visibility and the fact that they are open to the public during the entire time period elections would be held in the buildings.
Signage will be posted at the former dorm locations for all 2010 elections to direct any voters who may still arrive at their former location. New permanent voter identification cards will be issued to all affected voters.
Beaudry said due to the highly transient nature of the population in the affected precincts, there are few long-term registered voters. Many move annually from one precinct to another on and around campus, so a polling place change may be less disruptive in this area than in other areas of the city, she said.
The city also recently decided to permanently relocate the polling location for 1st Ward Precinct 8 from Ann Arbor Open at Mack, 920 Miller Ave., to Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Road for all future city elections.
Beaudry said Skyline High is a more geographically appropriate location for voters in that precinct and is accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, she said the current location has proven confusing to voters in 5th Ward Precinct 3, who vote at the Second Baptist Church located directly behind Open at Mack.
School officials agreed the use of the larger high school building is preferable to the elementary school building.
Polling places will be open on Aug. 3 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.