Campus parties woo swing votes

The Yale College Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on which presidential candidate would best serve this country, but they are united in their dedication to getting Yalies to the polls.

Voter registration drives conducted on campus such as Get Out the Vote have traditionally sought to register voters in Connecticut. But this year, both campus political groups will attempt to register as many students as possible in their home states to maximize each party’s impact in the 12 to 15 states that have been identified as swing states.

Although registering in Connecticut is often students’ simplest option — they need only to walk to Dwight Hall to cast their ballots on Election Day — YCD Registrar of Voters Maren Ludwig ’05 said the contentiousness of this election has led students to attempt to maximize their political impact.

“There’s a larger portion of the college population looking to get absentee ballots and they don’t know where to go,” she said.

Getting an absentee ballot can be complicated because regulations and deadlines vary from state to state, Ludwig said. The Democrats will issue copies of a pamphlet from the People for the American Way Foundation to all volunteers containing each state’s registration rules and regulations so they will be able to elucidate them for students who wish to obtain absentee ballots, she said.

The group hopes to set up booths with laptops in Old Campus so volunteers can guide students through the registration process and direct them to Web sites where they can request absentee ballots, she added.

Jenny Braun ’08, who has already registered to vote in her home state of New York and plans to fill out an absentee ballot, admitted that some students need a hand when it comes to navigating through voting procedures.

“Unfortunately a lot of people are pretty lazy,” she said. “But it’s just an extra form to fill out [to get an absentee ballot]. You just have to be a little more proactive.”

The Yale College Democrats capitalized on the “political buzz” on campus last spring and began a voter registration drive dubbed “Storm the Dorms,” which involved knocking on students’ doors in the hopes of registering those inside, Ludwig said. The campaign resulted in the registration of 40 to 50 swing state residents in their home states, Ludwig said.

The YCD will work with the College Democrats of Connecticut, a coalition of campus Democratic groups throughout the state, to register as many voters as possible within the next three weeks, YCD President Nirupam Sinha ’06 said. Last night the Democrats began registering students at their first general meeting of the year, which approximately 260 students attended — a record number, according to YCD Vice-President Andrew O’Connor ’05.

The Democrats will begin another “Storm the Dorms” drive targeting the freshmen on Old Campus following the group’s Kerry-Edwards Campus Kickoff on Sept. 12, Sinha said.

Campus residents can expect visits from the Yale College Republicans as well. The Republicans hope to begin their own dorm-room campaign with the help of about 40 volunteers within the next week, YCR President Al Jiwa ’06 said.

While the Democrats intend to register anyone and everyone they encounter, the Republicans said they will be a bit more discriminating. Because Yale’s student population is predominantly liberal, Jiwa said the party will have the largest possible impact by seeking out students who identify themselves as Republicans and ensuring that they are registered to vote in their home states.

“Our goal is to identify every Republican on campus and register every single one of them,” Jiwa said, noting that there are currently 250 students on the organization’s e-mail list.

But Jiwa said the Republicans will not refuse to register students who don’t share his party’s political views.

“Our overall goal is to make sure everyone votes,” he said. “This is the most important election we’ve ever faced in our life.”

Nirupam Sinha ’05, president of the Yale College Democrats, speaks to an enthusiastic full house Monday in the Branford dining hall.
Timothy Polmateer
Nirupam Sinha ’05, president of the Yale College Democrats, speaks to an enthusiastic full house Monday in the Branford dining hall.

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