Low Primary Turnout in Lansing, East Lansing

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

"It never becomes not worth it because it's peoples' opportunity to choose their leadership, so I think it's worth the price of having an election," said Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk.

It's another Election Day at Lewton Elementary and that means another chance for Debbie Rasmussen to get out and vote. Truthfully, she'd like to see more people there.

"It's sad. It's voter apathy," she said. "If you don't vote, you can't complain about what happens."

Still around lunch time, her location had nearly 200 total ballots cast. Down the street at Elmhurst Elementary, a different story. Only 100 ballots cast at 1 p.m. Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope says 20-25 percent turnout is typical for primaries. That's not much, compared to how much is spent to make an election happen.

"It costs the city somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000-65,000," said Swope.

Most of that is for the poll workers, who get paid a minimum of $120 each on Election Day. In recent years, Swope says the city has cut costs by limiting the number of elections and a number of years ago, it consolidated a number of polling locations.

In East Lansing, where elections cost $40,000, early numbers also showed a low turnout. City Clerk Marie Wicks says it's difficult to get people out for a primary in the summer, especially the MSU campus, where there are five precincts that see little foot traffic.

"It would be nice to figure out something so that next time around, we could really have one precinct open and not have to pay everybody and that kind of thing," she said. "But for the time being, that's the requirement of the law."

Despite a consistently low turnout for primaries, Swope says it's worth it to spend the money.

"It never becomes not worth it because it's peoples' opportunity to choose their leadership, so I think it's worth the price of having an election," he said.


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