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Politics & Government

Volunteers work to get out the vote in Grand Rapids

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Lindsey Smith
/
Michigan Radio
Lizbeth Espinoza and Michael Tuffelmire stop at laundromats, super markets, and food stands like this one to make sure people know about the election and to offer them a ride to the polls.

Voters in Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding cities are voting Tuesday on a millage increase to support expanded public transportation.

Lizbeth Espinoza and Michael Tuffelmire walk into small Mexican super market in the mostly-Hispanic Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Tuffelmire says many people here aren’t aware there are any other elections but the big one in November.

That's part of the reason they’re driving around a passenger van, picking up anyone who needs a ride to vote.

“I’m just trying to just, no matter what people want to vote, I’m trying to make easier access for them," Tuffelmire said.

They're volunteers from the Friends of Transit a group pushing for the expanded services. Another group, Kent County Families for Fiscal Responsibility, is against the tax increase.

39-year-old Grand Rapids resident Emanuel Merritt had forgotten the election is today. Merrit says he’ll vote for the increase because he rides the bus every week.

“You don’t have to worry about parking, you know. Save money, especially with these gas prices. It’s ridiculous.”

If the mileage passes, officials says riders like Merritt will notice a dramatic improvement in transportation services. 

If the levy passes, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $76 year – that’s about $26 more than they paid this year. 

The increase would pay for more consistent and frequent services. All routes would run through at least 11 o’clock at night on weekdays and 10 o’clock on Saturday.

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