My first unelection Day in Michigan

I am a voter. In all the places I’ve lived in, I have registered and exercised my right  to vote. I can only think of one or two elections (one was the 1988 presidential election, when I was away at college. But even if I cast a vote, Michael Dukakis had no chance of winning) that I did not participate in voting in election.

Even as a kid, my parents took my brother and I to our elementary school at night so they can cast their votes in the cafeteria. My brother and I sat at semi-folded up tables pushed against the wall and stared at the feet in the voting booths, wondering what those grown ups were doing behind that curtain. I remember I couldn’t wait to be old enough to get in that booth and pull the lever.

Here, in my new suburban surroundings, I noticed something strangely missing from the October landscape. Because, along with skeletons, gravestones and pumpkins adorning the lawns in my old Brighton neighborhood were political signs. Usually Democratic Party leaning, signs would urge passers by to vote for judges, school board members, Congresspeople. No or Yes on this or that proposition.

I did get a reminder call from my old town by a real (young sounding) person reminding me to vote and informing me of my polling place. I politely thanked them for the call but told them I had moved.

But here in West Bloomfield? No calls. Not a political sign to be found. I thought this was one more silly rule in our neighborhood association charter. Like the rule where you can’t have a shed or a different mailbox.

Signs or no signs, I knew it was election day. And it was my civic duty to vote. But where?

I asked two of my neighbors who were unsure. They were not even sure what there was to vote on.

Surely, other towns had issues and elections to vote upon. Just a few to mention:

  • There was the mayoral election in Detroit, where former hospital executive Mike Duggan defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean.
  • Royal Oak voters approved a human rights ordinance banning discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and other factors, making the Oakland County community the 30th municipality in the state to add such a law to its books.
  • Voters in Macomb county approved tax hikes to support fire and police services
  • So, I figured there had to be something I needed to vote for in my new town. I registered to vote at my new town hall. I had my voter i.d. I was ready.

    I waited until the evening to go vote, taking my two oldest children in tow. Hard to believe that come the next presidential election, my oldest will be eligible to vote. I went to the most logical places: the nearby schools. In one school, parents sat around watching their kids at an indoor soccer practice. None could tell me where to vote.

    Next was my son’s middle school, where parents were gathering for a meeting about the swimming team season. Not only could a parent tell me where my polling place was, but she didn’t know it was election day.

    How could this be? And how could I not exercise my civic duty to vote, this my first election day in my new state? The kids started to grumble. After all, the main objective of this outing was to do some shopping at Old Navy.

    Finally, I went to town hall, where I should have gone for advice in the first place. The doors were open and there were some bins labeled as ballot boxes on tables outside the clerk’s office. The clerk expediently located my address and her eyebrows raised.

    “Oh. You live in the section of West Bloomfield zoned for Bloomfield Hills schools?”

    Yes, I thought, the much coveted section where we send our kids to school not within an earshot of our home but all the way the hell on the other side of town?
    “You don’t have an election this year.”

    No election? Not a single vote to be cast? On anything? Not one school official? Or County judge? Or proposition to release reserved funds for a new school roof?

    I left town hall feeling strange but knowing I had done my civic duty of at least trying to vote. I had dragged my kids around town trying to fulfill my right to vote, trying to teach them a lesson that voting is something that should always be practiced. At least, on the years your town has something for which to vote.

    And, without further delay, we went to practice our other right as Americans: the right to be consumers buying cheaply manufactured clothing from China at the nearest suburban shopping plaza.

    Did you get out the vote in your town? Were you happy with the results? Leave a comment, I’m all ears!

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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