College Dems round up votes on campus

It was five o’clock, deep into Election Day, and after 600 phone calls and 500 door hangers pushing voters to the polls, the Yale College Democrats were still clawing for a larger voter turnout.

“We’ve got our three big hours left, the peak hours,” Dems volunteer Nirupam Sinha ’05 said.

By the end of the night, 291 Ward 1 voters were counted, short of the Dems’ goal of 500 but higher than in previous mayoral elections. The largely Democratic Ward 1 encompasses Old Campus and eight out of Yale’s 12 residential colleges.

Working out of a Saybrook suite turned Election Day nerve center, Yale College Democrats President Michelle Mayorga ’03 directed volunteers throughout the day to canvass the school and coerce more students to vote.

“When young people don’t vote, it gives everyone else an excuse not to listen to us,” former Yale College Democrats President Lex Paulson ’02 said. “What we’ve done in turning out the Yale vote is help young people get their voices heard in New Haven.”

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. won by a landslide in Ward 1 with 245 votes. There were 38 votes for Republican candidate Joel Schiavone ’58, one for independent candidate Henri Sumner and one write-in for Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg.

The official number of Ward 1 registered voters is about 1,800, but Mayorga said the true number of voters living in Ward 1 is between 1,000 and 1,200 because voters remain on the list for three years, regardless of whether they have graduated or moved out of the ward.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, who ran unopposed yesterday, worked nearly ten hours on Election Day to encourage students to vote.

“I feel like it’s great that that many Yalies came out to vote today — but there’s always room for improvement,” Healey said. “It’s essential that people vote so they have a stake in the law of government.”

Page after page of the Ward 1 voter list plastered the walls of the Dems headquarters in Saybrook. Those who had not yet voted received a phone call. And at the top of every hour, a Dems volunteer would dash to the polls at Dwight Hall and back with the names of students who had just voted. Mayorga stood at the list, pen in hand, crossing out the names of students who had done their civic duty.

Mayorga said the predictability of the election was irrelevant to whether students should vote.

“What’s important isn’t who’s going to win, but how they won,” Mayorga said.

She added that the high level of student involvement in local campaigns was “commendable.”

And outside Dwight Hall, Alicia Washington ’05 stood with DeStefano literature in hand, urging anyone passing by to make a stop at the polls.

“The city’s going to look and say, ‘Why should we pay attention to the concerns of Yale students if they’re not going out and voting?'” Washington said.

The Yale Dems this year have registered nearly 200 voters, mainly freshmen, by going door to door.

“It’s a long road to being taken seriously in this town but we’re on that road and we took another step today,” Paulson said.

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