Maren Ludwig ’05 will be calling lots of friends on her cell phone today. But Ludwig — the registrar of voters for the Yale College Democrats — will not be relating a party invite or a piece of juicy gossip. She will be reminding them to vote.
Today, while Connecticut and nine other states vote in the largest round of primaries and caucuses so far in the election, Yalies will be taking midterms and counting down the days until spring break. But while they may be swimming in knowledge about astrophysics or music history, many students feel too uninformed to vote in the Connecticut primary. Although most students are registered to vote, whether in Connecticut or their home states, many say they will hold off voting until the general election in November.
Until recently, this year’s Democratic primary has been an especially open race, but even as the field narrows, many students say they feel unprepared to vote. Sarah Hummel ’06, who registered as an Independent last April, said she has been following the primaries “passively” but so far does not have a strong desire either way. She said she will vote in November and plans to look into the candidates’ platforms more in depth then.
Although registered Independents cannot vote in the Connecticut Democratic primary, most Independents said the real reason they would not vote today was lack of information. Many were not even aware that Independents cannot vote in the primary.
For one, Eric Steinlauf ’05, who registered as an Independent a few years ago, will not vote today. But he said he plans to go home to nearby Branford to place his vote in November when he will know more about the issues and not just vote along party lines.
“I just haven’t felt overly educated on the candidates to the point where I felt like I needed to go home and vote. I’m kind of embarrassed about that fact, actually,” Steinlauf said. “I’d like to think that I am going to put some thought into it.”
For other students, voting is less a question of education as it is of convenience. Laura O’Brien ’04, a registered Democrat, also said she “probably” does not know enough about the issues to vote but thinks the concept of voting is important. O’Brien said she is “trying to keep up” and will vote today if she has time and finds a place to vote.
Absentee ballots also present a challenge to voters away from home. Courtney Glavis-Bloom ’04 originally registered to vote in her home state, California but registered in Connecticut when she came to Yale. She recently switched back to California registration so that she could vote in the October gubernatorial recall election. But she did not request an absentee ballot in time to cast her vote in the California primary, which will also be held today.
For Jonathan Schwarz ’06 though, spring break plans help avert this problem. Schwarz will be home in North Carolina during spring break and during the state’s primary. He said he chose to keep his North Carolina voter registration because he is more familiar with the state’s local politics. Schwarz said voting is not “a matter of life or death” for him or for others he knows.
“I think at Yale, people keep a pretty close watch on the primaries and the candidates, but I think there are people who have no interest in voting or the elections at all,” Schwarz said. “People at Yale care more than the average person, but there are still people who aren’t interested.”
Alyssa Rosenberg ’06 will be on the ballot herself today; she is running for Ward 22 co-chair in New Haven. Rosenberg said she has seen a lot of enthusiasm in the Yale undergraduate population both for her campaign and for voting in general. There are approximately 220 students registered in Ward 22, Rosenberg said. She and her campaign have registered 60.
Ben Healey ’04, Ward 1′s alderman, pointed out the difficulty of having a one-fourth voter turnover every year in Ward 1, a ward dominated by Yale undergraduates. He said he tries to approach all 1,000 freshmen who live in Ward 1 — which includes Old Campus, but not Silliman or Timothy Dwight Colleges — about registering in Connecticut and usually registers about one-third of them in the end. In 2000, 90 percent of the 1100 voters registered in Ward 1 voted, Healey said.
“The key is that folks have to make an effort,” Healey said. “It’s not that hard to go to Dwight Hall and vote.”
Jessica Paindiris ’05 said voting is one of the first things she does on Election Day. The former secretary of the Yale College Democrats, Paindiris said she has voted in every election since she turned 18. Although she said she thinks people should try to educate themselves on the issues beforehand, Paindiris encouraged everyone to vote.
“I think you should exercise your vote whenever you can,” Paindiris said. “I don’t think anyone’s not qualified to vote.”
While Paindiris said she is ready to vote today, she is looking forward to voting in her first presidential election in November. Other students said they agreed that they will vote in the November elections when they will feel they are making more of an impact and more of an informed impact.
Gregory Jordan ’07, registered as an Independent in Connecticut, will not vote today but is ready for the general election.
“I figure once the Democratic primaries are over there will be a little less to focus on,” Jordan said. “There’s just been so much — I can’t keep up.”