Washtenaw United: What you need and should expect on Election Day
ABOUT CATHERINE MURAU:
Catherine is the vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County. She moved to Ann Arbor 27 years ago, has a career in teaching English as a Second Language both here and overseas. She became active in LWV about 1 ½ years ago. as Candidate Forums Co-Chair, they just finished conducting 20 candidate forums featuring 44 candidates for the November election
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and welcome to our weekly exploration of equity and opportunity in our community. I'm David Fair, and on this edition of Washtenaw United, we're looking at your last opportunity to vote with the midterm elections taking place tomorrow. A great number of people have chosen to vote absentee, but there are plenty who haven't. And for democracy to work its potential, then voter participation has to take place. Our guest this morning works through every election cycle to make sure we're as informed an electorate as possible, so that we make the best choices for our families, neighborhoods, community, state, and country. Catherine Murau is vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County. And, Catherine, thank you so much for making time during this most busy time of the season.
Catherine Murau: It's absolutely our pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you for having us.
David Fair: So, I'm curious. I mentioned the absentee prevalence. Has the change to a system of absentee ballot on demand change the manner or the timeline in which the league has to go about getting out candidate information to prospective voters?
Catherine Murau: Yes. We feel the crunch. We want to reach every possible voter by the time absentee ballots are distributed. So, we pay a lot of attention to that on our calendar in terms of distributing voter guides. And what I've been most involved with is conducting candidate forums. We've conducted many of those by the time the absentee ballot comes out, as we're able to.
David Fair: Well, here we sit a day away from elections. Nearly 2 million Michiganders did request absentee ballots. Obviously, we are well past the time where sticking those ballots in the mail is going to work. For those who are sitting on an absentee ballot right now, what is the best method of making sure that vote gets counted?
Catherine Murau: Putting it yourself into a drop box, and you can also go to your clerk's office and hand it to somebody there.
David Fair: You mentioned the ballot drop boxes.
Catherine Murau: That's a guarantee. Yeah.
David Fair: NPR has been reporting from places around the country that there is a lot of voter intimidation going on. That one party or the other is stalking out these ballot boxes and making it uncomfortable for people to drop off their ballots. Are you satisfied with the security of those boxes and feel assured that doing so today before the election is good enough to get the vote counted?
Catherine Murau: Oh, absolutely. Washtenaw County is a well-run place. And those boxes have worked in the last cycle in 2020, and they will work for people today. And we haven't heard of any intimidation or anything that leads people to believe that these aren't safe. So, put them in the drop box. And if you absolutely, you know, if you feel more comfortable, you know, bring it right up to the clerk's office and hand it to somebody.
David Fair: So, I have another question about the actual ballots themselves. We hate to hear that how many ballots get spoiled because they were filled out incorrectly each election cycle. What are some of the common mistakes that end up getting a ballot disqualified?
Catherine Murau: Well, I worked the August primary, and we didn't see many of those. But, you know, sometimes, people just, like, they just go in and accidentally mark the wrong thing, or they don't turn the ballot over, for example. And then they realized during that process that they have done something wrong, and they can just go right back up to the people working. And then, we very deliberately spoil that ballot issue, a new ballot, and this is all recorded. And then, we place that spoiled ballot into a special bed that's delivered to the clerk's office at the end of the night.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County Vice President Catherine Murau on Washtenaw United. And hopefully, Catherine, there's going to be a rush at the voting precincts tomorrow, so those who did not vote absentee can make their voices heard as well. For those of us that are going to vote that way, what do we need to know before we head to the precincts tomorrow?
Catherine Murau: Well, they're open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and I'll be there, again, working along with, you know, other people, community-minded people across the county. So, be assured that when you go, you're going to get the, you know, ballot and do everything properly in a timely manner. And then, also before you go, you know, the ballot's long. There's a lot of things we vote for here in Michigan. And, you know, do your research. And, at this stage, I would highly recommend going to vote411 dot O-R-G where you can plan who you're going to vote for and how you're going to vote on proposals. It's a very well-laid out website with information and candidates' own words, so that can help you be prepared for this long ballot that you're going to receive.
David Fair: For those that are unregistered to vote as of today, can they get registered in time to fill out a ballot?
Catherine Murau: Yes. You can register up until and on the day of the election, and now go to your clerk's office. Your clerks are well-trained, wonderful people. I've met many of them all across the county, and they are there to help you on Election Day. And you can vote right then and there after you've registered.
David Fair: There are still a lot of folks who don't plan to vote at all. Some don't trust the election process. There are others who are expressing that their vote doesn't matter, so why bother? Some are simply uninterested or feeling news and election fatigue. What would you say to them?
Catherine Murau: Oh, your vote counts. Go. Be part of the process. Do something that so many people across the world are unable to do. You know, be proud that we live in a country where, you know, you can vote, and you can vote freely and without intimidation and just be a proud American and, you know, enjoy the ride. So, I hope you go out and vote. We feel like it counts because it does.
David Fair: Once again, midterm Election Day is tomorrow. And we're talking with Cathy Murau. She is vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County. Now, Catherine, throughout the primary and general election cycle, as you mentioned, the league has been holding candidate town issue forums and as always has that extraordinarily informative 411 voter guide. Through this process in this particular election cycle, how would you assess the level of community and voter engagement for the midterms?
Catherine Murau: Well, those voter guides are, you know, kind of hot going. They're disappearing. You know, we've been distributing them all over the county. And, this year we did--so, there's a voter guide put out by the State League that, you know, that covers statewide offices. And then, I'm proud of the fact that we have a big, strong league here in Washington County. And we muscled enough people together to put together a local voter guide, a paper one. And those might not be available anywhere anymore because people really wanted that information and printed form.
David Fair: But it is available at the league's Web site.
Catherine Murau: Yeah. Vote411dot org is all the information. These printed guides comes from that. So, I would highly recommend doing that. And then, you can feel confident and comfortable, like, doing some homework before you go. All that information is in one place, and it's logically laid out. So it should be a big help. I mean, I use it, and I'm so happy to have that sitting in front of me while I'm thinking.
David Fair: As you mentioned, you have been most involved with putting on candidate forums, and those are concluded now. But, the league did put forth 20 candidate forums featuring 44 candidates for tomorrow's election. It is predicted that this is going to be a higher turnout than the last midterm election, but a little shy of what we saw in the 2020 presidential election. How did the forum engagement compare to that of the election year of 2020?
Catherine Murau: Well, for me, this was my first go-around as being one of the co-chairs. And, between 2020 and now, we expanded from being the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area to inclusive of Washtenaw County. And there was redistricting. So, we just worked really hard to put on as many forms as possible. Really kind of not thinking of the past, but thinking of the present and the future. Like now, we have new districts, and we have a bigger mandate to serve people in the county. So, we just really didn't think of comparing because it was so different.
David Fair: And now that we are a 24-hour media nation, and that's moved us into a perpetual election cycle, how quickly are you all going to have to turn around and get started organizing the off-year elections in 2023 and eventually the presidential year elections in 2024?
Catherine Murau: We'll, you know, take Thanksgiving off and Christmas, and then, in January, we'll start planning. So, you know, one of the big things that League of Women Voters does is register voters. And we pay particular attention to low voter turnout, sort of traditional groups of people, whether it's people that live in senior housing or whether it's young people. And we just really work to try and register people to vote. And then, we focus more on issues and things that maybe our members and other members of the community would be interested in, in terms of public policy or other topics. And then, depending on, you know, what special elections are coming up maybe in May or what off-year elections. I mean, local politics is really, really important, too. So, we're, you know, ready to conduct candidate forums and, you know, host webinars or things like that for really, really local elections, which, in the end, is probably what affects most people the most on a daily basis. So, we're ready for those smaller elections to give it our best.
David Fair: Well, as we get set to conclude the 2022 election cycle, we thank you for all the work the league has put in in helping us become an informed electorate, so that we can take advantage of our right to vote. Thank you so much, Catherine.
Catherine Murau: Thank you very much for having me.
David Fair: That is Catherine Murau, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County as we prepare for tomorrow's midterm elections. For more information, visit our website at WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County. We bring it to you every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.
The LWV-WC takes an active role in supporting historically marginalized communities through access to voting and access to information. We take a two-pronged approach: 1) identifying and then supporting low-voter turnout communities, and 2) fielding requests to provide voter registration and information. For example, we work with low-income and senior housing, traditionally low-voter turnout populations, to assist with understanding how to complete an Absentee Ballot request. In addition, we go into high schools in Washtenaw County to register voters, and we just completed an 8-day event in collaboration with Washtenaw Community College to register voters.
Other ways we assist is by working with the local county clerks to recruit poll workers when needed, by tabling events at food pantries, hand-writing postcards to low-voter turnout populations, and the distribution of 12,000 printed voter guides to libraries, senior centers, and underserved community residences.
We urge all eligible voters to be informed by going to VOTE411.org to find information on candidates and proposals. This information is also in the printed voter guides distributed around the county.
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
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