For sophomore trio, prospect of run-off ‘likely’

The last time three sophomores ran for Yale College Council president, nobody won a majority.

The year was 2003, and the race for the presidency was split between three members of the class of 2005: Miles Hall ’05, Elliott Mogul ’05 and Edward Pritchett ’05. Over the course of three days, an “unprecedented” 2,307 students cast ballots in the race, marking a 17.4-percent increase over the previous year.

On April 17, Mogul walked away the victor, scoring a decisive 14-point triumph over his nearest rival, Hall. But a majority still evaded him: Mogul finished with 46.2 percent of the vote, ahead of Hall at 32.2 percent and Pritchett at 21.6 percent.

Less than 48 hours remain until this year’s candidates learn their fate. But already, signs point to a split race between Katrina Landeta ’10, Harrison Marks ’10 and Rich Tao ’10.

“I think it’s very likely we’ll need a run-off,” YCC President Rebecca Taber ’08 said Monday afternoon, after polls had been open for seven hours, “just because all three are so qualified, and whenever you have three people vying for president in a heated election, it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to get a simple majority after the first round.”

Taber herself narrowly avoided a run-off election with then-YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 last April. After the votes were counted, a seven-point margin separated the two, allowing Taber to clear the five-point threshold that would have mandated a second round.

But this year’s three-way race could prove much closer, and the candidates for the council’s top job still have time to spread the word.

“[Results] are on my mind, but there’s two whole days ahead of us and a lot can change,” Landeta said. “A lot of people said they still hadn’t voted. Voting doesn’t end until 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Myself and the rest of the candidates will keep going until then.”

A trail-weary Marks said Monday afternoon that he was focusing on his message rather than speculating on the final counts.

“I’m worried about getting my own message across and helping people to understand the facts of this election,” he said. “It’s hard to see beyond that right now, and I don’t want to see beyond that right now.”

Tao spent three hours last Saturday knocking on doors in Vanderbilt Hall on Old Campus with secretary candidate Jasper Wang ’10. In that time, the two spoke to 40 freshmen.

“To be honest, I’m just not thinking about the results as much as I am about reaching out to people,” Tao said. “Having those conversations is good — I’ve had amazingly engaging conversations over the past four or five days.”

For years, conventional YCC wisdom has taught that freshmen turn out in higher numbers than members of other classes. The rule held last year, when freshmen accounted for an outsized 33 percent of the vote. One current Freshman Class Council representative, who asked not to be named, explained the disproportional turnout in terms of interest — and a dash of naivete.

“We’re new here, and we like to stay up on what’s going on, especially with student government,” the freshman said. “And we’re probably not as disillusioned yet by the YCC, in terms of knowing what it can and can’t do with the administration.”

Taber offered another explanation: Because of the perception of high freshman turnout, she speculated, YCC candidates spend disproportionate amounts of time wooing freshmen. The self-fulfilling prophecy comes true, Taber said, when freshmen consequently vote in higher numbers on Election Day as a result of having been courted so heavily.

“It’s a ‘the chicken or the egg’ question,” Taber said.

But many eyes this year may be on another class: sophomores, whom Zach Marks predicted will be sharply divided by this year’s field. Landeta, Marks and Tao are close, he said, and share a large group of common friends. How those loyalties shape the race remains to be seen, Zach Marks said, but one thing is clear — sophomore turnout is likely to spike.

“It’ll be interesting to watch them split up the sophomore class,” Marks said. “It’s obviously going to make sophomore turnout really high, which could help other sophomores down the ticket.”

Exactly which Old Campus dorm — or residential college — the voters call home could also have an impact on this year’s presidential race.

In April 2007, after the dust settled from multiple run-offs for vice president, treasurer and secretary, the undergraduate marketing and research group Maya conducted a survey of students who had voted in the election. Maya’s report, titled “YCC: See. Vote. Ignore?” found that the presence in the field of multiple candidates from a single college benefited those candidates significantly.

“For every candidate participating from a college, that college’s participation level will increase on average by 12.8 percent,” the study reported. “This is important, as comparison of college-specific voting records with those of the overall population shows that students from a specific college were a whopping 102.6 percent more likely to vote for the candidate hailing from their own college.”

Those data augur poorly for Tao. Only two colleges can boast three candidates apiece in this election cycle: Branford and Timothy Dwight colleges, home to Landeta and Marks, respectively.

Voting, which is being conducted on Yalestation.org, will conclude Wednesday at 9 p.m.

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