On Election Day morning at 8 a.m, I left my room in Swing Space to go to Commons for breakfast before class. I found a flyer on my door telling me to vote today, helpfully informing me of when and where I should do so. “How great!” I thought. “Some group on campus is spreading awareness about voting today.” I even assumed the flyer was from the Yale College Council or some other nonpartisan group on campus. Then I saw the rest of the flyer.
Vote, it told me, for Barack Obama, Rosa DeLauro, Gary Holder-Winfield, NO on Prop 1 and YES on Prop 2. Confused, I searched the poster in vain for the group sponsoring the poster. I found nothing. I was shocked.
Ten minutes later, I sat down in Commons with my food and saw people walking through the dining hall putting up table tents. I glanced at one and saw the message from the flyer on my door: information about voting today and the command to vote for the Democratic candidates and the Democratic sides of the initiatives. I was slightly disgusted.
Don’t get me wrong — as I looked at the list, I saw exactly whom and what I supported on the Connecticut ballot. I am a Democrat through and through. And, as a Democrat, I did hope the majority of Yale students would decide to support those candidates and initiatives.
What I did not support, though, were the implied messages: “Vote for Obama or don’t vote at all,” and “Vote Dem or don’t vote at all.” That was the message many Democrats on campus were spreading before and through Election Day.
The direction, I thought, was just as bad as the oft-heard Republican message, “Vote Republican or you are anti-American.” I think it is abhorrent and fundamentally undemocratic to post seemingly bipartisan flyers across campus on Election Day telling students for whom to vote.
For the majority of Yale students (and even the majority of seniors), last week was the first time we had the opportunity to vote in a presidential election. The campus was rife with democracy. And finally, all of us had a voice in who became our next president. The excitement was palpable: Everywhere I went, I heard people asking each other, “Did you vote?” — a question usually answered proudly with an “I voted” sticker.
The posters across campus undermined this idea completely. I believe it is imperative that everyone who is registered in Connecticut know when polls are open and where they should vote. But I believe, too, it is imperative that every student on campus goes to the polls to express their own views, not the views that an “unaffiliated” poster on campus tells them to hold. And I think it is completely inappropriate to discourage students from voting because they do not hold these views.
Election Day is over this year, but it’ll be back next year, and the year after and each year following. So, next time it comes around, can we put partisanship behind us and support the most fundamental democratic process of our country: the right to vote for the candidates in which we individually believe?
Kristin McCall is a senior in Calhoun College.