BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Cross country runner Evan Cover will soon embark on a 1,087-mile jaunt from halfway across the country. This time the finish line is a voting booth in Peninsula Township.
Cover, 19, a former standout runner for Traverse City Central High School who attends college in Massachusetts, discovered about two weeks ago that elections officials denied his absentee voter application.
So the sophomore at Tufts University near Boston decided to fly home to cast his ballot in person. He planned to use savings from his summer job to pay for the $483 ticket, though his parents ultimately helped undercut his costs.
"I calculated it out," Cover said. "It would be a big hit to my budget and would have restricted what I could do, but I was willing to pay for my own way home."
His parents, Rick and Susan Cover, were surprised when Evan shared his plans.
"At first I thought it was more effort than was warranted, but I do admire his sense of duty and ideals," Rick Cover said. "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make the same effort if I was in his shoes. I grew up in the Vietnam war era and had a very different relationship with my government."
Evan Cover never considered not voting in a presidential election.
"Ever since I was a young kid, I've always thought of voting as a right of passage, but also as a way for me to begin my participation in the American political process," Evan said. "No matter how small, my vote will make an impact."
Evan is a political science and international relations student at Tufts, and said his goal is to become part of the policy-making process for the federal government.
Rick said his son was "pretty distraught" when he first learned he wouldn't get a ballot.
Evan registered by mail last year during a voter registration drive at Tufts. But Michigan law requires those who register by mail to either show up in person at their local clerk's office or vote in person before they can obtain an absentee ballot.
The trip home became a little easier when his parents decided to cash in their frequent flyer miles.
"My dad asked me if I would really be willing to spend my money on this, and I said 'yes' without hesitation," Evan said. "I think they kind of both thought it was not 100 percent worth it, but to me it is."
Evan doesn't just want the experience, he wants to support certain candidates and ballot proposals. He's still researching state ballot proposals, but said he will support Traverse City Area Public Schools millage request, as well as school board member Gary Appel, whom he knows personally.
But Appel's candidacy isn't the reason he's flying home.
"I fully endorse one of the presidential candidates in this race and believe his policy will be the best outcome for the country if he's elected," Evan said. "On the other hand, it won't be the end of the world if he's not."
Evan will land Monday night after a five-hour flight and head back to the sky on Tuesday at 2 p.m. He'll miss three classes, but said his teachers voiced their support.
His friends at school had a more mixed review.
"I think some of them thought it was really cool and admirable, and some of them thought it was ridiculous going to such measures," he said.
Rick Cover said he's glad his son is standing up for his ideals, and that such pursuit will bring him home for a short visit.
"We do miss him," he said.
Finally, who does Evan want to cast his presidential vote for?
The chant he hopes to hear Tuesday night is: "Four more years."