Kalamazoo voters turn out for local election, despite typical low-turnout rate

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Voting on Nov. 5, 2019, in Kalamazoo at Precinct 21 and Precinct 24. (WWMT/Trisha McCauley)

Local elections in Kalamazoo typically see low voter turnout, but an election official said they saw a higher number of people than usual.

Kalamazoo Deputy City Clerk Shelby Moss said the number of people voting can vary because of the large population of college students, homeless and many voters moving in and out of the area. Michelle Straube, a precinct official, said demographics can impact voter turnout in Kalamazoo elections.

"The older voters tend to be more interested in voting or they've been in the city a long time," Straube said. "They really understand he city's history and the politics and some of the issues going on in our city."

One local voter said he takes the time to vote because he wants his voice heard.

"Because if I'm not heard then other peoples voice will be heard and then I complain, and I haven't done anything to offset that," Don, a voter in Kalamazoo Precinct 20, said.

Don said he thinks it can be even more important to cast a ballot for local elections.

"Where we can have the most impact is at our local municipality and county district, much more so than the state where there is much more millions of people," he said.

According to the Kalamazoo City Clerk's Office, 54,297 people are registered to vote in the city. They said only about 7,000 to 8,000 people vote in local mayoral elections:

  • In 2013, 4,478 people voted.
  • In 2015, 7,709 people voted.
  • In 2017, 6,770 people voted.

Typically 18- to 25-year-old college students have a low voter turnout, but Western Michigan University Sophomore Peyton Jorgensen said he turns out to the polls.

"Especially local elections, they can be the most impactful, that's why I wanted to come out and vote," Jorgensen said

The district that contains Western Michigan University was not seeing the high turnout of other districts and Jorgensen said he is working on campus to get other students involved in voting.

"Whether I'm in East Lansing going to Michigan State or Kalamazoo going to Western, it still matters just as much as how we turnout and how we vote," hesaid.

The 2019 local election is the first election people can register to vote in person at a local clerk's office on election day.

Moss said 11 people stopped by their office to register to vote by 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.