Election Day brought record numbers of Yale students to the polls, despite a variety of obstacles ranging from confusion over where to vote to problems with voter registration.
811 people voted at the polls in Ward 1 Tuesday, a record high for a gubernatorial election year, former Ward 1 alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07 said. Despite the high turnout, some students said they were unable to vote after discovering that registration forms they had filed with the Yale College Democrats had not been processed. Others said confusion about where to vote — especially in the cases of students in Timothy Dwight, Davenport, Pierson, Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges — caused delays at polling booths.
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According to Reuters News Service, the largest number of young Americans in 20 years turned out to vote in congressional elections this year, partly because of concerns over the handling of the war in Iraq. At least 10 million voters under the age of 30 — 26 percent of the under-30 population — voted in Tuesday’s elections, up 4 percent from the last midterm elections in 2002.
In Ward 1, a New Haven district comprised largely of Yale students, approximately 44 percent of the electorate turned out to vote. Livengood said the heated senate races and aggressive campaign efforts, particularly by the Yale College Democrats who went door-to-door last month registering voters, contributed to this year’s high turnout.
But Katrina Landeta ’10, who filed her forms with the Yale College Democrats, said staffers at the New Haven public library — the Ward 1 polling site — turned her away because they said she was unregistered.
“I turned in my forms with them and everything, and I never received any confirmation in the mail so I wasn’t sure what was going on,” she said. “I went to the New Haven public library, and they made me step aside, and they told me I wasn’t registered. I explained that a student group came door to door, and they said that either the forms weren’t submitted on time, or weren’t submitted at all, or were lost in the mail.”
Landeta, who turned 18 in August, said she was particularly disappointed at not being able to participate in the first election for which she was eligible. The staffers at the polling place told her that a number of other students had experienced the same problems, she said.
Yale College Democrats President Brendan Gants ’08 said his organization did not fail to submit any completed registration forms.
“There’s no reason why that should have happened,” he said. “Every single completed voter registration form we collected was turned in to the New Haven registrar before the deadline. Any errors were clerical errors made by the New Haven Registrar’s office.”
Gants said the Dems repeatedly called and e-mailed students who had submitted incomplete registration forms to ensure they would be properly registered by the deadline. By election day, fewer than five forms remained incomplete, he said.
Republican Registrar of Voters Rae Tramontano said she did not notice unusually large numbers of late applications.
“We had a group that came in at the last day at 5 o’clock, and those all made the deadline,” she said. “It was nothing different from the past.”
Tramontano said the applications that narrowly made the deadline were submitted by a student political group, but she was not which one.
Other students said the boundary between Wards 1 and 22, which runs through Yale’s campus, also caused complications for voters. Many upperclassmen who had registered as Ward 1 residents on Old Campus in their freshman year now live in colleges that lie in Ward 22, requiring many voters who did not realize they needed to reregister to wait in long lines at the polls on Tuesday. Further confusion arose from the fact that even though Pierson and Davenport technically lie within the geographic boundaries of Ward 1, federal election law mandates that the residents of those colleges vote at the Ward 22 polling place.
Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 sent an e-mail to all residents in his ward early Tuesday morning, encouraging them to vote at the New Haven Public Library. But Shalek said he neglected to remind Pierson and Davenport students to vote at Ward 22’s polling place instead of the library. After realizing his error, Shalek sent out a clarification e-mail just before 3 p.m. Polls opened Tuesday at 6 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said in an e-mail that he was not aware of the confusion caused by the ward boundary, but that steps may need to be taken to lessen complications for future elections.
“We might have to work with the City of New Haven, clarify the boundaries of the wards and publicize this information to students,” he said.
Davenport resident Sabrina Howell ’08 said she was not immediately aware that her Ward 1 registration from the 2004 elections had to be resubmitted for this year’s election.
“I live in Davenport now, so I was driven by the shuttle to the Ward 22 polling place, and then I suddenly realized that I had registered in Ward 1 as a freshman,” she said. “They had to call Ward 1, and they got a transfer form, so that was good, but it took a while.”
A last-minute transfer of the polling site for Timothy Dwight students also caused problems on Tuesday. Gants said the switch in location was made with little notification and that a coalition of organizations, including the Dems, had to work to inform Timothy Dwight residents of the change.
Yonah Freemark ’08, who volunteered through the campus group Students for a New American Politics, said he put up a number of posters encouraging Timothy Dwight students to take a shuttle to Ward 22 before he discovered that the polling site had been changed. Unlike past years, Timothy Dwight students were assigned to the Ward 1 polling site this year.
“We did a pretty large campaign, so we tried to take a few of them down, but a lot stayed up,” he said. “It wasn’t intentional.”
But Jacob Koch ’10, a Timothy Dwight resident, said the early confusion did not prevent students in Timothy Dwight from voting.
“The correction happened pretty early in the day, so I think people figured it out and were able to vote,” he said.
Gants said over 90 percent of registered voters in Timothy Dwight went to the polls.
The polling location for residents of Ward 2 — which includes off-campus housing popular with students on Lynwood Place, Edgewood Avenue and Dwight Street — also changed at the last minute from Goffe Street Firehouse to a location farther away from campus on Orchard Place, Gants said.