At Wexler/Grant, confusion over affiliation

Yalies don’t often pass by the glass-paned facade of Wexler/Grant Community School, but Super Tuesday changed all that.

From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. yesterday, Yale students and New Haven residents in the heavily Democratic Ward 22 filed through their local polling place, casting ballots in the Connecticut presidential primary and collecting “I Voted Today!” stickers.

Technical glitches were few, but more than a few voters were left scratching their heads because of confusion with college addresses and the rules of Connecticut’s closed primary system, which allow only those registered in a particular political party to vote in that party’s primary.

Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead told the News he was excited about the relatively high turnout.

“That’s a record for this ward,” Morehead said of the total vote count. “Today is definitely a day that’s going to go down in history, all across Connecticut, with the number of people who are coming out to vote.”

Theodore Gardner Jr., the election moderator at Wexler/Grant and a New Haven resident since 1966, attributed the heavy influx of voters to the excitement surrounding the Democratic primary, which, for the first time in years, has made Connecticut a battleground.

“It has drawn a lot of interest, invigorated people who want to come out and vote,” he said. “They’re getting a lot of people signed up and interested in the process. It’s good to see that energy after eight years of the present administration.”

But, despite the hundreds who came out to vote, not everyone got to fill out a ballot: Poll workers turned away registered voters unaffiliated with a political party.

Christine Nguyen ’09 said she thought the instructions on the registration card did not make it clear that political party affiliation was a requirement for voting in primary elections.

“There’s no loophole, you can’t change it — you can only change it for the November election,” Nguyen said. “It’s a close call in Connecticut, between Hillary and Obama, and all of these votes should be counted.”

New Haven resident Cheree Murrill-Bailey, voting in her first presidential primary, said the party requirement is at odds with the imperative to fulfill one’s civic duty. She said she left her registration “unaffiliated” when she first registered three years ago as an 18-year-old because she hadn’t yet decided on a political party.

“I think it’s unfair that because I’m unaffiliated, I can’t vote. I think I should be able to make my choice whenever I want to,” Murrill-Bailey said. “They’re always complaining about not having enough voters … and I’m trying to make that effort. It shouldn’t matter if I’m Republican or Democratic.”

Gardner estimated that at least 10 voters — possibly more — were turned away on the basis of their unaffiliated status.

Residential addresses also caused a headache for poll workers and voters alike. Several Yale students were sent to the “Help Desk” because their names were not listed under their residential college. Since there was only one phone available, poll workers faced periodic backups as they called City Hall to check the master list for voters’ names and residential listings.

Despite the confusion, Chris Lohse GRD ’88, who has lived in New Haven since 1986, noted that overall voter turnout was much higher than in past elections.

“When I first came here, there were a lot of students that voted, in the ’80s, and then there was a decline,” Lohse said. “Today I’ve seen so many walking down here.”

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