In the first 2008 residential-college primary, held Monday, Branfordians traded in ballots for beans to cast their votes.
In this, Yale’s first primary election of the political season, Senator Barack Obama carried the Branfordian vote with 55.4 percent while, former Yalie, Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 came in at a distant second with 20.8 percent and John Edwards received 7.8 percent. Just 58 percent of Branfordians, or 269 students, participated in the mock primary, 84 percent of which voted Democratic.
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The recent Yale Daily News campuswide poll, conducted between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, also showcased Obama as the frontrunner. With 26.4 percent of the Yale undergraduate vote, Obama towered over Clinton, who took 12.1 percent. The News’ poll, which was sent to the entire undergraduate community, received 1,833 responses.
The election, the first of its kind ever conducted in a Yale residential college, according to Branford Master Steven Smith, was held in the Branford dining hall during lunch and dinner hours. Voting consisted of placing a garbanzo bean into a can labeled with the candidate of choice.
In an e-mail sent to the Branford community Sunday, Smith said he is trying to set the tone for more political debate on campus. He hopes to set a stage in which more colleges will follow suit by holding primaries around campus, he wrote.
Reviewing the results of the primary is only the beginning of getting an idea of the political breakdown on campus, Sophia Janowitz ’10 said.
“I think the primaries were a good idea, though I know we can’t predict the way people will vote in the upcoming primaries,” she said. “There will be a lot of change in the next weeks, but it is good to get a discussion started.”
Following the vote tally, two political science professors, Justin Fox and Khalilah Brown-Dean, led a discussion with a group of students. Brown-Dean, who teaches a class on voting rights and representation, said Obama’s popularity among voters was not surprising. Yalies, many of whom are first-time voters, have come to support Obama and the image of change that he perceives, she said.
Allyson Goldberg ’08 said the primary offered a chance for the college to come together and discuss various political outlooks.
“It’s great to be able to flesh out political opinions in a comfortable, intellectual setting, before the actual primary,” she wrote in an e-mail after the primary. “It was particularly interesting to exchange differences in opinions and voting strategies between seniors — many of whom are second-time voters in a presidential election — and underclassmen, although we are in the same voting demographic category.”
During the discussion, students agreed that their main concern when voting was which candidate would change the perception of America internationally. When Branfordians explained why they voted the way they did, most mentioned voting for the candidate they thought would do the best in settling issues with the war in Iraq. The candidate that can best deal with the issues in Iraq will be the candidate that will help America’s foreign policies, several students interviewed agreed.
Though students said the Branford primary was well-coordinated, some had doubts about the integrity of the voting results because almost half of the Branford student body did not vote.
Other students, including Jonathan Janis ’10 said they would have preferred that the primary had been opened to more people, such as Branford faculty and dining hall workers instead of just students.
“I thought that it would have been nice for the entire community of Branford to vote,” he said.
Of the 16 percent of voters who voted Republican, 18 voted for Senator John McCain, seven voted for Mike Huckabee and fewer voted for the remaining Republican candidates.
Any future residential college primaries have not been announced.