A record turnout, new faces in local offices, and overwhelming support for a housing millage.
From the December, 2020 issue
"We had reports of lines at seven o'clock in the morning," says Washtenaw County's unflappable elections director, Ed Golembiewski. "Those lines were by and large reduced and eliminated by eight a.m. There was a steady stream of turnout in person all day long, [but] there were never significant lines after that initial rush."
A record 67,595 Ann Arborites cast votes for president, 10 percent more than in 2016. Despite Donald Trump's attacks on voting by mail, 60 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats voted absentee. Countywide, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris polled 28,653 votes more than Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine four years earlier. Yet despite the huge numbers, Golembiewski says, "We were a hundred percent reported by 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday"--a bit sooner than in 2016.
Trump supporters filed, then abandoned, a lawsuit attempting to throw out the county's votes. Golembiewski says he's "very confident the results are a hundred percent accurate." The bipartisan board of canvassers certified the results and congratulated city and township clerks on their "excellent job in managing all the elements of the November 2020 general election ... despite political passions running high and a pandemic."
The election confirmed the winners of the city's August council primaries, returning to power the alliance we call the "Activist Coalition." Voters also renewed the city's sidewalk repair millage, added one to close sidewalk gaps, and approved a twenty-year, one-mill affordable housing tax almost three to one. "I'm excited to see that our voters [proved] again that we're the compassionate community that we say we are," says Chuck Warpehoski, the former city councilmember who helped lead the housing millage campaign.
Voters added Ernesto Querijero and Krystle DuPree to the Ann Arbor Board of Education and returned incumbent Jeff Gaynor. The winners all criticized recruiting students who live in other districts to enroll in the AAPS--but Gaynor doesn't see anyone moving to drop "schools of choice." With 1,800 students, "it's ingrained in the district,"
he explains, "both in terms of the students that we have and the economic impact."
All candidates in a four-member slate won election to the Ann Arbor District Library Board. When the pandemic ends, they'll likely continue reimaging the system's flagship building. "We have been working for years toward examining what to do at the downtown branch," says returned board chair Jamie Vander Broek. "The most recent thing [was] how we pay for it. And then the pandemic happened."
Tracy Van den Bergh will be the next Washtenaw County trial court judge. Eli Savit, who effectively won the county prosecutor job in the August primary, takes over in January. Savit wants to remake the prosecutor's office and empty the county jail of everyone who's not a threat--and in these pandemic times, that sounds good to reelected sheriff Jerry Clayton, too.
[Originally published in December, 2020.]
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