Politics

Flint Polling Places Ran Out Of Ballots, Turned Voters Away

CREDIT: Kira Lerner

Grace Emmanuel Church, one of the busiest polling places in Flint

FLINT, MI — At least one Flint, Michigan polling location ran out of Democratic ballots on Tuesday, forcing voters to either wait over an hour for city clerks to deliver new ones or to leave their phones numbers to be called when more ballots arrived.

Grace Emmanuel Church, one of the busiest polling locations in Flint servicing Precinct 49, ran out of ballots for the presidential primary around 4 p.m., a poll worker confirmed to ThinkProgress. Flint’s NBC25 reported that two other locations across the city ran out of ballots as well.

Loyce Driskell, an elections administrator at Grace Emmanuel, told ThinkProgress that she has worked at the polls for four elections, but this is the first time she has seen a location run out of ballots. A city clerk did not deliver more ballots to the location until around 5:30 p.m., the beginning of the evening rush.

Driskell said she took down the phone numbers for ten people who did not have time to wait. Seven she was later able to reach, and they told her they would come back to vote. Three of the numbers were disconnected or she was not able to reach the voter.

The increased national attention on Flint likely created increased interest in the primary. Both Democratic candidates have visited the city and they held a debate here on Sunday, much of which focused on the water that is continuing to poison the city’s residents.

“Absolutely there’s more interest this year,” she said. “I think the water crisis, maybe the debate. I just think that Flint is on the map for the world to see and I just think all of that has really gotten voters to turn out.”

The city clerk told MSNBC that turnout in Flint was the highest in 20 years:

She said she did not blame election administrators, and said that perhaps this experience will help them improve for future elections.

“They could always be more prepared,” she said. “But there’s only so prepared you can be. We were trying to get 100 percent turn-out, but this is a great turn-out for us.”

Miriam Aukerman, a staff attorney with the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union, told ThinkProgress that Michigan often experiences problems with election administration. The state does not allow early voting, so there are often long lines during general elections, and polling locations are often not conducive to lives moving efficiently.

The last presidential election in Michigan also saw confusion at the polls, largely over a controversial voter suppression measure that required voters to affirm they were citizens. That requirement led to legal voters being turned away.

Precincts elsewhere in Michigan also reported ballot shortages due to high turnout this year, slowing down voting.

This post was updated to include a tweet with information about Flint turnout