Polls closed across Michigan after precinct problems

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
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Polls in Michigan have closed, as voters poured into precincts across the state to weigh in on who will face off in November for Governor and dozens of other state and local races. 

But those who voted faced power outages at at least 14 polling places and a lack of ballots at various precincts across metro Detroit. 

Melvin Taylor, 83, and his wife Marcia Taylor of Pontiac talk after casting their votes this morning at New Bethel Missionary Church in Pontiac

State election officials are urging voters to not leave their precincts if they were in line at 8 p.m. and haven't been able to vote because of ballot shortages. 


"Polls close at 8 pm. All voters in line by 8 pm will be able to vote and should not leave the polling place. Some precincts have reported running low on ballots. Voters can't be turned away due to lack of ballots. Clerks will provide more ballots to precincts as needed," the Michigan Secretary of State account tweeted late Tuesday. 

Ferndale city officials acknowledged on its Facebook account that two precincts had run out of ballots. 

"Oakland County has struggled to keep up with the higher-than-anticipated turnout. Our staff is doing everything in our power to expedite the voting process and get more ballots," according to the Ferndale city post. 

The ACLU of Michigan also urged people to stay at the polls until they are able to vote: "Polls close at 8 p.m. If you are standing in line at 8 p.m., you will be permitted to vote," the group tweeted.

Adding complications: a few election polling places across Metro Detroit lost power at the start of Tuesday's primary after a thunderstorm Monday. 

Utility crews restored electrical service to all the polling places around 3 p.m. Tuesday, in a power outage that affected 40,000 customers, DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris said. 

MoreThousands remain without power Tuesday

In a video posted to DTE Energy’s Twitter feed Tuesday morning, the company's executive director, Ryan Stowe, said about 14 polling places were without power following Monday evening’s storms. The outages didn't stop people from voting but lights and air conditioning units weren't operating at some of the polling places affected. 

"These sorts of issues are typical of every election," said Fred Woodhams, Michigan secretary of state spokesman. "With 4,800 precincts spread across a geographically large state, it's not surprising to see weather-related problems in at least a few precincts."

Woodhams said the paper ballot-based system ensures that voting can continue even if a polling location loses power.

"Precinct workers are trained on how to rely on paper voter list print-outs and securely store the ballots so they can be fed into the tabulator later or be counted by hand," he said. 

The Detroit branch of the NAACP called the power outages "unacceptable" in a news release, saying the situation "further demonstrates the need not only for updated machinery and technology, but to maintain as an alternative updated and available paper ballots." 

The NAACP said there must not be any obstacle to keep voters from casting their ballots or feeling like their vote counts. They also cited concerns over polling location changes that were not communicated properly. 

This situation is exactly what happened at the Bishop Moore Senior Complex on Manchester and Second Ave. in Highland Park where several seniors showed up to cast ballots but were unable to. 

Highland Park spokeswoman Marli Blackman said the whole thing was a mistake.

“Bishop Moore was never opened in the first place,” she said. “It used to be a voting spot, but not this year.”

Blackman said the city publicized the places to vote. Other than the mix-up, she said the polling has gone smoothly.

Eban Morales, vice president of the Highland Park School board, said many of the seniors in the buildings are disabled and couldn’t make it to another site to vote.

Morales said he tried to get emergency ballots for the seniors but was unsuccessful.

“They don’t have any means or ways to get to the new site,” Morales said.  “And they feel like their vote is being suppressed because they weren’t given proper notification or any options.”

Storms knocked down trees and power lines, with the heaviest damage reported on the east side of Detroit. The city of Dearborn also reported outages at polling locations at Nowling and Howard elementary schools. 

Congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib said in a tweet that power was out in the polling places at Gompers Elementary in the Brightmoore area near West Outer Drive and Lyndon on Detroit's west side.

In Grosse Pointe Park, the city's 1 and 2 voting precincts at Trombly Elementary on Beaconsfield near Jefferson avenues and Alter Road were using generators to run computers.

Isabel Peck, 24, said she wasn't surprised the polling place didn't have power. She said she doesn't have power at her home, either. Still, she said, it was important to her to cast her ballot.

"I think it'll be OK," she said.

Fellow Grosse Pointe Park resident Macie Tuisasosopo, 30, said the lack of electricity didn't make it any harder for her to vote.

"It was just a little warmer than I would have liked inside, but that was all," she said. "It's a good polling place. It's always quick and easy. I felt it's important to vote even though there's no power here or at my home."

Associated Press contributed.

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