Monday, December 5, 2022

COLUMN: My experience with the hours-long Brody Square voting saga

November 11, 2022
Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

Four long hours was the amount of time I had to wait in line at Brody Square to perform my civic duty.

Hours of making sure I had the right paperwork, frantically asking questions to everyone around who looked official with a clipboard to make sure I wasn't going to be turned away at the front of the line.

It was pandemonium, and to be honest, I will probably never vote in-person ever again. However, this is a moment of history I will never forget.

Now you may be asking me, "Isn't this just the consequences of your own actions?" I would answer truthfully: it absolutely was. As a person who loves an 11:59 p.m. deadline, I live by the last minute – I am a journalist, you know. I forgot to get an absentee ballot from my hometown and I never made myself sit down long enough to re-register myself before Election Day. I didn't even plan out enough time in my busy day of reporting to make time to vote earlier in the day.

That's how I found myself at the back of the line at Brody Square.

I wouldn't feel like a respectable political science student if I didn't vote. What did I sit in public opinion class every day for if I didn't turn out to be a statistic in all the polls I studied? What kind of journalism major would I be if I was reporting on something all day if I didn't engage in it? Like all Americans, I had the civic guilt that has been brewing in my stomach since the moment we first said the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten.

There was also a lot at stake on the Michigan ballot this year. There I was, cooped up with my laptop in CommArts, among other neurotic journalism students who were trying to churn out stories about the Brody voting situation – or the fifth circle of hell, as I'd like to call it.

On my way to vote, I stopped to get quotes from students, trying to balance my JRN300 grade and my civic duty, the long line or my long list of to-dos. I walked my happy a-- into the building, took my clipboard and headed to the back of the line at around 6 p.m.

I stopped by some girls who were near the middle of the line and asked them how long they had been there. They pulled out a stopwatch and showed me they were at an hour and 45 minutes. I wheezed a bit at that, but pulled my bootstraps up and knew that democracy was more important than my sleep.

By the time I migrated to the end, hundreds of people were in line to re-register themselves to vote in the county, making me feel a little bit better about my situation. If everyone else is as big a procrastinator as I am, how could I be doing anything wrong? The team for the City Clerk handed me two very convoluted papers on re-registering and I tried to fill them out. I had to ask about 1,300 times if I was doing everything correctly. I took a deep breath, checked the last four digits of my Social Security number 35 more times and decided my paperwork was perfect.

Now came the agonizing part: the waiting. The line was wrapped around Brody Square about three times with seemingly another 100 people around every corner. I was trying to do my work in line but every time I sat down and got out my laptop, the line would miraculously move another 10 feet. I couldn't scooch or crab walk forward because that would look stupid. Once, I dropped my laptop and it glitched out, causing me to fear for my life. This led me to decide it was futile to attempt to get everything done. Also, my leg fell asleep at one point and I kicked someone right in the shin. If I knew they voted for someone I didn't like, maybe I would have dead legged her instead, but alas, the secret ballot is still in effect.

The shining stars in the waiting process were the volunteers. With it being as hectic as it was, I have thank those who were passing out snacks and pizza, constantly thanking those who were waiting to make their voices heard. There were also lots of people able to answer any questions I had, making the process much smoother.

As I got to the front of the line, I could feel myself getting more excited. Everyone around me was giddy to vote, even when they thought they would have been out three hours ago. By the time I took my seat at the voting area, it was around 10 p.m., and somehow I was still unprepared to vote.

As I was sitting with my ballot in front of me, I had to look up many names on the end of the ballot to see what their campaign looked like. However, when I sealed my almost straight-ticket ballot with no toss ups – which I was kind of hoping for to make the process a little spicier – I was more proud of myself than ever.

I collected my sticker and said goodbye to the line that looked just as long as it was when I started, wishing them luck with making their voices heard. It was almost 11 p.m. when I got home. My night didn't end there, as I still had to attempt to write two more stories in my dorm while I downed the Dino Nuggets waiting for me in my freezer.

There are no words for this experience that I had. I couldn't believe how the campus had mobilized to make their voices heard this Election Day. It inspired hope in me that my generation had something to say and that the MSU campus truly is influential and more involved in politics than I thought. I would wait in 100 more lines like the one I did if it meant that many people cared about who we put in office.

My experience was formative and I was so happy to see the resources on campus we have today for those who want to participate in our election system. I want to thank the MSU staff and students who made this possible for so many students who procrastinated, just like me.

If I had to pick out one word for my experience it would be 'enlightening.' And maybe tiring as well.

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