It’s Election Day and that means all over campus students will be doing what they do the first Tuesday of every November: bypassing the voting booths and choosing to not make their voices heard. At this year’s Democratic primary — important in a city that votes overwhelmingly for its Democratic candidates come Election Day — voter turnout was lower in Ward 1 than in any other ward, with only 129 of 850 registered Democrats heading to the booths. That 15 percent turnout in Ward 1 was low even compared to the paltry 29 percent Democratic turnout citywide.
This is not a new problem, but today students have a chance to redeem themselves. We urge them to stop making excuses for noninvolvement and make their voices heard somewhere — whether voting in Dwight Hall for the next Ward 1 Alderman or voting in by absentee ballot in their home states.
The prevailing wisdom is that students don’t care about what happens in New Haven. But only the most uninformed and naive could really argue that what happens in the city is irrelevant to students. Look, for instance, at the downtown revitalization and economic development that has turned Broadway into a student-friendly shopping strip and seems likely to do similar things with Chapel Square Mall. Or look at larger social issues such as the Domestic Partnership Amendment, which has the potential to set precedents that shapes policy nationwide, and thus our lives after Yale, no matter where we may be. It would be difficult indeed to say students don’t have a stake in what happens at the polls today.
So why don’t we vote? Perhaps it’s the view that the Yale bubble trumps all else and that political shakeups in the city affect our lives less directly than administrative shakeups in the University. Or perhaps we see Yale as a place of transience, a temporary, four-year home for most of us, and as a result we have little incentive to make our voices heard.
Or perhaps it’s the aggressive way in which we’re asked to register to vote. It’s not surprising so many people don’t vote when voter registration feels more like an assault than an invitation to participate in a democratic process. By the time the third Yale College Democrat knocks on our door to deliver a speech about why we should be ashamed for not being registered in New Haven, we’re inclined to either slam the door in frustration, or just register in order to be left alone, with no intention of actually voting. We think it’s unfortunate that students who decide to stay registered in their home states can be made to feel guilty for doing so. Some students feel more educated about politics at home, or are likely to return there to live, and thus feel more invested in their state’s politics. But while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying registered to vote at home, students who do so should commit to actually requesting and completing an absentee ballot — actually casting their votes. Too often, we think, students use the desire to stay involved in home politics as an excuse to remain uninformed about New Haven politics.
Regardless of where your vote is cast and counted, there are always ways to get involved in issues that affect us all as residents of New Haven. Volunteer for a campaign. Work in the local schools. Go to a rally. But do something. Political involvement and working towards a better New Haven — and by extension, Yale, doesn’t end at the polls today.