Update: Slow but steady as Election Day winds down in Greater Lansing

No apparent signs of voter intimidation — or weapons — six hours after polls open

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(This story was updated at 4:27 p.m.)

TUESDAY, Nov. 3 — With less than four hours remaining until polls close this evening, hundreds of voters have already made it out to cast their votes across Greater Lansing today.

And though it could be several hours until reliable results begin to arrive given the surge in absentee voting, all signs have pointed to smooth sailing at precincts across Ingham County.

Several polling locations saw long lines of voters earlier this morning that quickly tapered off by the early to mid-afternoon. A spokesman for Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope described the scene in Lansing as “steady, but not overly busy” today.

Precise turnout figures are still unavailable. 

Several residents lined up outside St. Stephen Lutheran Church on Waverly Road in Lansing by 8 a.m. Nearly 200 people were also outside Waverly East Intermediate School by 8:15 a.m. The parking lot at Swope’s satellite office along S. Washington Road was also packed by 10:30 a.m.

Among the first voters at St. Stephen was Raquel Lopez. She planned to tick the bubble for Joe Biden — adding her vote to nearly 100,000 absentee ballots already received from across Ingham County, many of which were expected to lean heavily toward the Democratic Party.

Lopez said she wants her and others’ voices to count this election. That’s why she waited with several others early this morning to “make a difference” to the future of this country, she added.

At Waverly East Intermediate School, Mariann Smith was in line to vote for President Donald Trump. She said she waited to vote in-person — like nearly 200 others who lined up there by 8:15 a.m. today — because she didn’t trust the integrity of the absentee voting process.

“It has more security to see the success of the ballot going in,” Smith added.

By 12:30 p.m.,at least 300 ballots were cast in person at Precincts 3 and 11, two of three precincts housed at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing. In progressive Precinct No. 11, about 1,400 of 1,500 absentee ballots that were sent out had already been returned. 

Precinct Chairwoman Marie Wicks also reported seeing more younger voters than usual. 

East Lansing voter Samantha Stewart described this year's election with one word: Insanity.

"There's just a lot going on right now," Stewart said. "Whoever wins, something is going to happen, like riots."

Stewart, like many other voters who came out to cast their in-person ballots, said social issues like women's rights and the Black Lives Matter movement ultimately pushed her to the polls.

"I feel like I’m doing something," she added. "With corona happening, you don't really get to do much."

At Meridian Township Hall, about 10 new voters were signing up every hour since polls opened at 7 a.m.. Though not a polling place, voters can still go there to register and to drop off absentee ballots.

Garrett Christensen, 19, of Okemos, registered at the hall and filled out his ballot earlier today.

“I feel like I have a say in something,” he said.

Although Christensen declined to say whom he voted for, he said he decided on his candidates by watching news and hearing what policies he liked best. His mother, Rachel Christensen, also watched on as Garrett registered. She planned to vote by later this afternoon.

“It’s the direction of the country, whether we go more communist or socialist or stay a democracy, which is what we fought for initially,” Christensen told a reporter earlier today.

By 2:45 p.m., 262 votes had been cast in Precinct No. 26 at Lansing’s Southside Community Center, said precinct chairwoman Mary Morgan. “Everything’s gone very smoothly,” she said.

Lansing resident Iman Manuel, who said he lost friends for supporting Trump, thinks a Biden presidency would be a “disaster” for the U.S. economy. Though “terrified” of a Biden presidency, he also said he’d expect U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris to replace him as president in the first year. 

“I think we would lose the America we know,” Manuel told a reporter. “Harris terrifies me more,” 

Still, Manuel added: “No matter what happens today, we’re all Americans.”

There were no signs today of any local “army” of poll-watchers stationed in Greater Lansing, as President Donald Trump had called for earlier this month. Nor was there any visible presence of an armed militia or others attempting to intimidate voters before they arrived to cast their vote.

Gillian Dawson, chair of Precinct No. 45 at the Foster Community Center in Lansing reported no indication of voter intimidation. Those who came inside were also wearing masks earlier today. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also reported that she wasn’t aware of any voter intimidation issues across the state either. She listed more than three million absentee ballots already received and said she has no indication of increased turnout in any particular region of the state.

Still, city and township clerks across Greater Lansing have been on high alert in recent weeks amid a deluge of misinformation over voter fraud, but none have immediate reason for concern.

Given a drastic increase in absentee voting this year, residents might be waiting on a concrete set of results until Wednesday morning or afternoon, but they’re expected to be reliable as clerks continue to vouch for enhanced security measures ahead of next week’s election.

Last night, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum announced that local clerks had received nearly 96,000 absentee ballots in recent weeks — more than three times as many in the last presidential election in 2016. A total of 214,400 voters are registered to cast a vote countywide.

Michigan’s official elections website — likely in response to some of the unfounded vitriol coming from the Oval Office in recent weeks — warns voters of continued attempts to “hack their minds with scare tactics” designed to “lessen their faith or confidence in our elections.”

Benson earlier this month issued a directive that bans firearms from within 100 feet of a polling location, though the legal necessity of that order was shot down in the Michigan Court of Appeals. It’s already a crime to intimidate people with guns; An outright ban is invalid, it ruled.

Nobody was spotted carrying any weapons into any polling locations by this afternoon. Elections officials from across Greater Lansing haven’t reported any significant issues at any precincts.

The Lansing Police Department has still vowed to keep more cops on the streets today and to be particularly responsive to any suspected efforts to suppress the vote. Swope isn’t expecting armed militias at precincts in Lansing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. So far, no problems.

Nessel also outlined a plan last week to dispatch Michigan State Police troopers to counties where the threat of unlawful voter intimidation may be the highest. None of the clerks who spoke to City Pulse last week expected the Greater Lansing region to require those added resources.

Still, both the Republican and Democratic parties have legal experts monitoring the election process across Michigan and the country. Nessel’s office will also be fielding concerns from any witnesses of any alleged voter intimidation at (517) 335-7659 or at miag@michigan.gov.

Those that still need a ride to the polls can use a free ride credit from Lyft offered through the NAACP, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope announced this morning. Voters can use the Lyftcode NAACP VOTE2020 for a $25 ride credit to take them to their nearest polling location. CATA is also offering free rides to the poll this afternoon; No identification is required to board the bus.

Check back for continued coverage at voting precincts in Greater Lansing throughout the evening. 

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