FLINT, Michigan -- According to the Michigan Secretary of State, 2.9 million people in Michigan have already cast absentee ballots -- that’s about 60 percent of what the entire number of voters was in the 2016 election. As we approach a November 3 presidential election that is consequential, divisive, and occurring during a global pandemic that is entering its third surge in cases, there is arguably as much uncertainty around this election than any in our recent history.
The Secretary of State and election works will be following safety protocols and has a list of security measures on its website. Residents who still have absentee ballots SHOULD NOT MAIL THEM -- the city of Flint has six locations for them to be safely and securely dropped off:
Flint City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw Street
Flint Police Station, 210 E. Fifth Street
Fire Station 3, 1525 Martin Luther King Avenue
Fire Station 5, 3402 Western Road
Fire Station 6, 716 West Pierson Road
Fire Station 8, 202 East Atherton Road
For additional voter information, call the City Clerk Election Division at (810) 766-7414.
Prior to Tuesday’s election, Flintside talked with Chia Morgan, a community activist and program coordinator at Well of Hope. Morgan was a local organizer for #WalkTheVote, a national organization that organized local “voting parades” in communities around the country to promote absentee voting information.
Flintside: How did you get involved with Walk the Vote?
Chia Morgan: “They actually called me. They got connected with me through another Flintstone and said would you mind helping us? It’s something that’s so close to my heart, it’s so important, so I said absolutely, just let me know what you need me to do in order to get people mobilized.”
Flintside: How many of these voting parades have you done?
Chia Morgan: “This is the third one. Last week probably had the most people come out, but the thing about it is it gets people mobilized on Facebook. Once we post the pictures, people go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go (to the dropbox) tomorrow’ or ‘Oh, I found my ballot.’ So even if the numbers (of attendees) are in the 20s, it’s getting a bigger message out, mobilizing people, and getting young people to say, ‘if you can go walk from the courthouse to City Hall, I can just go put my ballot in.’ Some older people may not want to stand in line the day of (the election), but they can go bring their ballot.
“It’s been a nonpartisan effort, it’s brought people together. Your ballot is private, you don’t have to say who you’re voting for, but you have that collective mindset of we’re going to go put our ballots in and participate in the Democratic process.”
Flintside: How powerful is the visual of just seeing people participating, whether it’s on social media or seeing these parades in person?
Chia Morgan: “It’s very powerful. We are so divided right now on the issues -- as we should be. There are so many issues, and if you’re passionate about something, it may be divisive. However, you have to find something to bring you back, and I think the voting process is something that says this is my power, this is my voice, so I can go do that.”
Flintside: This year, with the pandemic, with social unrest, with everything on peoples’ minds, as an activist, how creative do you have to be to help people focus or get your message across?
Chia Morgan: “You have to be very creative. We gave people free masks, so that’s one more you can have in your rotation. We invited people who were running for office out, so it gave people a chance to ask them questions in a face-to-face setting. You have to be creative, but people have been receptive to it.”
Flintside: In the 2016 presidential election in Flint, voter turnout was lower than it had been in 2008 and 2012. As someone on the ground, what do you feel is the enthusiasm level here for just getting out and voting this year?
Chia Morgan: “We’ve all lost people (to the coronavirus), whether it’s been a coworker, grandmother, sister, niece, relative. You have to be honest too about what has sprung up from the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery protests, that is fueling people to the polls for various reasons. I think everything we’ve experienced in 2020 has been a driving emotional force to get people motivated to vote.”
Flintside: As we get close to Tuesday’s election, what advice would you have for people at the last minute?
Chia Morgan: “Do not mail your ballots, but you still do have time to get them in. There are drop boxes here at City Hall, there’s dropboxes at all of the fire stations in the city of Flint. Just go and get them in, be a part of the process. Don’t let anyone tell you your vote doesn’t count. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be so many voter suppression initiatives.
“I’m passionate about my candidates and the issues that I’m voting for, but just go out and vote. Let your voice be heard, that’s ultimately what it’s about. Don’t vote for your candidates if you haven’t vetted them, don’t vote one way just because you’ve been a Democrat or a Republican your whole life, vote on the issues that are close to your heart."