Voter participation high in Elm City

New Haven radiated blue on Tuesday as Sen. Barack Obama claimed 88.5 percent of the vote and Sen. John McCain took 11.5 percent.

Throughout New Haven, enthusiasm for the election was high. People gathered at polling places before moderators arrived, and those who were unregistered lined up outside the aldermanic chambers in City Hall to cast provisional ballots for president. Connecticut voter turnout was predicted to reach 90 percent.

But this enthusiasm did not preclude Election Day glitches.

Bleeding Blue

Louise Botelle is a bona fide “Jane the Plumber.” As a member of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 777, Botelle has no health insurance and has been laid off three times this year. She had a bandage covering part of her nose and her upper lip, the remnants of a septoplasty she had yesterday.

But, as she said she had told her doctor, “I’ll be there bleeding at the door, because no one is going to take my vote [away].”

Botelle, 45, was at the Ward 19 polls at the Celentano School on Canner Street twice on Tuesday, and she nearly cried both times: first when she voted for Obama, and second, when she brought her 83-year-old housebound mother to vote for Obama. Botelle and her mother were joined at the polls by thousands of other Elm City residents, many casting ballots for the first time.

Brothers Rodney and Darnell Maye were among that group of first-timers, voting alongside Yale students at the Wexler/Grant Community School on Foote Street. Both supported Obama, speaking highly of the politician.

“He’s going to take our country in new a direction,” Rodney said, Darnell nodding along.

But McCain was not completely absent from the Elm City’s political dialogue.

Joel Vetsch, an Orange Street resident who voted at East Rock Magnet School, was out at the polls all day conducting interviews for CNN’s user generated Web site “iReport.” A McCain supporter, Vetsch said that he felt alienated in New Haven, “like a fish out of water.”

Maurice Douglas ended up moving to the Democratic column for this election. Douglas, a veteran and two-time Bush voter, said he thinks McCain is a hero, but added that it simply was not the Arizona senator’s time. Citing the candidates’ tax policies as what he cared about most, Douglas called Obama “a president for the middle class.”

Either way, the high voter turnout increased residents’ confidence in the democratic process.

“The election is like a concert everyone wants to say they are at,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said after he voted at the Davis Street School in Ward 26. “You get a sense that everyone feels like they are part of history.”

A few hiccups

Still, some Eli voters who registered in Ward 1 were nearly denied their part.

As soon as polls opened, Vice President of the Yale College Democrats Geoff Buller ’09 said the Dems began receiving phone calls from students who were turned away from the stations for being unable to produce proof of residence.

Republican Registrar Rae Tramontano said the problem arose from the fact that some students did not provide the requisite amount of identification for their voter registration forms. This automatically put an asterisk next to their names, indicating they needed to provide proof of residence to vote, such as a utility bill or Connecticut driver’s license.

Rachel Ruskin ’12 was one of those students. She was told by the polling moderator at the Main Library on Elm Street that if she could not produce a Connecticut driver’s license or a piece of mail addressed to her Connecticut street address, she would be forced to cast a provisional ballot instead of a standard one. But because most Yalies are not Connecticut natives, this proved impossible.

Instead, Ruskin went to the Yale registrar in order to get proof that she was a Vanderbilt Hall resident.

“I didn’t want to have to settle for a provisional ballot and only be able to vote for president,” she said.

She then informed the Yale College Democrats of her problem.

Some students failed to get a letter like Ruskin did. Tramontano said Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09 got a list of all students with an asterisk and found out where they lived on campus. She then instructed the registrar to accept a Yale student ID as proper identification, Tramontano said, and the problem was solved early in the day.

Buller said they were lucky to address it so early in the morning before hundreds of other Yale students found themselves in the same predicament. Ultimately, Buller said everyone was able to vote.

“The whole bottom line is to let people that are entitled to vote and not disenfranchise anyone,” Tramontano said.

Across the city at Celentano School, District 1 moderator Ted Gardner said people gathered outside the poll prior to it opening. They processed approximately 500 voters in the first two hours, Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards said.

“It got really pretty wild in here,” Gardner said.

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