New Haven’s unaffiliated voters number over 18,000, making them the city’s second-largest voting constituency — and a force that could well swing the upcoming November mayoral election.
New Haven is a predominantly Democratic city with over 50,000 of its 70,000 voters registered as Democrats, according to a Sept. 5 press release from the City Registrar of Voters. However, the city’s formidable block of unaffiliated voters could change the race depending on which candidate wins them over.
“They form a large percentage of people, people who have yet to get involved — they’re significant,” said Yale for Elicker campaign manager Drew Morrison ’14. “They will be very influential in November because for the first time in New Haven history they’ll really get a chance to have a say in the general election.”
Voters who do not register with a specific party are generally those who feel disenfranchised by the primary process or frustrated by the state of local and national politics, said Elicker campaign manager, Kyle Buda. He added that many students living in the city may not have registered with a certain party because they come from states in which party registration is not required, and many young people may not have fully formed their political ideological beliefs.
Large clusters of unaffiliated voters reside in wards in which student populations are high: there are 1,180 in Ward 1 and 834 in Ward 7, according to the Registrar. Some students also feel disconnected from New Haven politics. Andrew Chanos ’15 said that he registered as an unaffiliated voter because he did not know enough about New Haven’s politics, or politics in general, to make an official party decision.
Moreover, during voter registration efforts on Yale’s campus, Morrison said that more than half of newly registered students did not select a party when filling out their applications.
Some voters may not identify with a specific party because they prefer to vote by issue rather than party, said Harp campaign spokesman Patrick Scully. Still, Buda emphasized that registered voters across the city who may have forgotten to select a party or are confused about the process of registering with a party represent only a small minority of unaffiliated voters.
In September’s Democratic primary election, Democratic candidate Toni Harp captured 7,327 votes — 50 percent of the total votes cast — and Elicker took home 3,417.
The Elicker campaign is expecting at least 4,000 unaffiliated voters to vote in November, Buda said. He added that they hope to capture these votes, as well as the votes previously cast for candidates who have withdrawn from the race, Kermit Carolina and Henry Fernandez LAW ’94, to make up the difference and catapult Elicker to victory.
Elicker’s campaign expects to win unaffiliated voters through Elicker’s status as an Independent candidate, and his commitment to reaching out to Yale students, according to Buda. However, many unaffiliated voters currently live in neighborhoods in which Elicker already has a strong presence, such as Wards 1, 7, 9, 10, 18 and 25, Buda said.
“[Elicker is] not part of the entrenched political machine, he’s not beholden to other office holders or political lawyers or donors in town,” said Buda. “He’s a free, independent thinker, and I think they’ll value that since they may feel disenfranchised.”
Scully said the Harp campaign has been focusing on a philosophy that resonates with all New Haven voters, regardless of their political affiliation, or lack thereof. He said the campaign believes unaffiliated voters, and voters in general, will be attracted to Harp’s record of experience and success, as well as her commitment to developing good public schools, jobs and safe streets.
The general election is on Nov. 5.