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Groups work to get out the vote in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids a number of groups are offering people rides to their polling places.  

Organizer Josh Leffingwell leans out of the backseat of a minivan to flag down a man walking down the sidewalk.

“Excuse me sir? Have you had a chance to vote yet today?” he asks.

Grand Rapids resident Samuel Johnson accepts the free ride to the school where he votes – nearly a mile away.

Johnson knows who he’s voting for for president. But he wasn’t so sure about Grand Rapids' proposition two. One of the proposals backers, Tyler Nickerson, explained that it would make possessing small amounts of marijuana a civil, not criminal infraction. Similar proposals are on the ballot in Flint and Detroit.

“What we’re trying to get is ensure that people who are using personal amounts of marijuana are not going to jail for it. Because we know that that doesn’t work,” Nickerson said.

“So let me ask you a question,” Johnson responded, “What do you consider a personal amount because each person is different.”

The two discuss federal drug policies for a while. Then Johnson thanks them for the ride and heads in to vote.

“Turnout is key. And so we’re really focused on ensuring that everyone has access to the polling location,” Nickerson said.

Both Nickerson and Leffingwell worked campaigns in 2008. Both argee there seems to be less enthusiasm now, particularly from young voters.

“When I talked to people who are working at the polling places they said that this is a bigger early morning turnout than they’ve ever seen. So I think that there are a ton of people voting. Maybe not with the same enthusiasm but I think that they’re still getting out,” Leffingwell said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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