At a Monday meeting of the Yale College Democrats, students expressed shared interest in ensuring Ward 1 remains primarily inhabited by Yalies after the ward’s boundaries change in the current redistricting process.
The meeting brought together members of the Dems, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chairs, and Yale spokesman Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, a former Ward 1 alderman, for a discussion of the future of Ward 1, whose shape and size have become uncertain because the 2010 Census revealed that its population is below the legal minimum for the city’s 30 wards. The Dems discussed concerns about how the ward’s borders may ultimately be determined.
After a Board of Aldermen special committee meeting last Tuesday held to discuss Connecticut’s recent redrawing of state representative districts — which split Ward 1 into three districts — some students said they feared that Ward 1 could also be cut into three pieces for the purpose of keeping Ward 1 voters within a single district. But Ward 1 Democratic Committee Co-Chair Ben Crosby ’13 said that he believed that the lines of Ward 1, traditionally known as the Yale ward because it includes eight residential colleges and Old Campus, were “pretty unlikely to change dramatically.”
That sentiment was echoed by Board of Aldermen President and Ward 5 Alderman and Board President Jorge Perez, who said he had not heard of any plans to split up the Yale-dominated ward.
“One of our goals, required by law, is not to take any one population and reduce their strength at the voting booth,” Perez told the News Monday evening. “If we were to make their voting block less significant, that would be a problem.”
The concern of respecting specific populations in the redistricting process was echoed by Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, who wrote in a Monday email newsletter to her constituents that splitting Ward 1 would “dilute minority voting power” by causing an “influx of Yale voters into Wards 2, 7 and 22.”
Still, Ward 1’s current configuration faces challenges related to population and polling locations. According to the latest census, the target population for each of New Haven’s 30 wards is 4,326, with a 5 percent margin above and below. Crosby said that the ward is “about 100 people shy of 4,000, and 200 people too small in total.”
With respect to polling locations, the state representative districts dictate where citizens vote for Connecticut and national elections, and Eidelson said it is “preferable to have as many residents of a given ward voting in the same location as possible.” In last Tuesday’s special committee meeting, concerns were raised about the need for additional funding to construct polling places in wards split by state representative district lines.
Dems President Zak Newman ’13 said he had been hearing conflicting reports, but he added that he believed the ward would not be changing dramatically.
After the Monday meeting, Perez confirmed that the special redistricting committee plans to release a proposed ward map at an April 4 public hearing on ward redistricting.
Newman and other members of the group made plans to testify in support of a Yale-centric Ward 1 at the hearing.
Newman said he plans to speak about ways in which a “student ward” has been good for both students and the city as a whole.
“We want a student ward not out of some power play; we want a student ward because it’s the best way for us to be citizens of the city,” Crosby said.
By city ordinance, the committee must finalize a new ward map by the end of May.