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Ferndale clerk discusses long Election Day lines

November 14, 2012

FERNDALE — Things were not always smooth sailing for voters at some Ferndale precincts on Election Day, but City Clerk Cherilynn Tallman is already working to address those issues.

Long lines were an incessant problem at polling locations like University High School and Ferndale High School Nov. 6, with some voters waiting for two hours or more to cast their ballots. Tallman thanked residents for sticking around long enough to have their voices heard in the election.

“We had long lines all day at many of our precincts, but people by and large were wonderful,” she said. “They were very patient, very understanding, and we certainly appreciate that. I was really impressed with the commitment of our residents to make sure that they voted.”

The day also proved to be a challenge for the volunteer election inspectors on hand. “I give our workers all the credit in the world — a lot of them went the whole day without a break,” Tallman said. “It was an 18-hour day for most of them, but they managed to get through it exceptionally well.”

Tallman acknowledged that Ferndale was shorthanded with its election workers, but she added that this was a problem for many cities all over the U.S. The clerk would ideally like to have a lot more volunteers so that people could work in shifts, rather than all day.

The long ballot for this election also played a factor, Tallman explained, as did the high voter turnout. Still, she pointed out that there were no major issues at any precincts with malfunctioning voting machines, computer problems or other technological failures.

Another cause of the long lines, the clerk said, was that there are now fewer polling locations in Ferndale. In December 2011, the city council voted to decrease the number of voting precincts from nine to seven, placing a greater number of registered voters within each precinct.

In addition, Tallman noted that voters sometimes unintentionally slow down the process by not being prepared to vote when they come in, something that is a problem during every election.

“We may need to do some educational outreach with the community,” she said. “We want to provide voters with good information about how the state of Michigan processes driver’s licenses and voter registration cards.”

Tallman added that city officials will be meeting soon to discuss some of these issues. There are a number of options on the table to help improve future elections, she said, from returning the city to nine voting precincts to more aggressively recruiting election workers.

“I think we did pretty well overall this time, but I definitely think we can do better,” Tallman said. “We will be reviewing our process very soon to try to create a better voting experience for all of our residents. I’m confident that we can come up with some solutions because we like to be the leader, the example, here in Ferndale.”

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