The majority of Yale undergraduates who are eligible to vote in Connecticut do not plan to cast a ballot in today’s municipal elections, according to a poll conducted by the News last week, and New Haven residents expressed diverging reactions to this level of student participation.
The poll found that while 61.3 percent of Yale undergraduates are registered to vote in Connecticut, only 36.29 percent plan to vote in today’s elections, which include a contested mayoral race between Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Toni Harp ARC ’78 as well as a contested aldermanic race in Ward 1 between incumbent Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Paul Chandler ’14.
Twelve of 14 non-student New Haven residents who were interviewed said that Yalies should vote in municipal elections.
“I think it’s really good for Yale students to be voting tomorrow,” said New Haven resident Jasmine Cannon. “The elections actually impact [Yale students] the most because everything in the city kind of revolves around Yale.”
While most New Haven residents interviewed responded positively upon hearing that a number of Yale students plan to vote, a few questioned whether students should have a voice in city politics at all.
Lisa Sanders, a library assistant at the New Haven Free Public Library, said that because Yale students are typically only temporary residents of New Haven they should not be eligible to vote in New Haven’s municipal elections.
“They are only here for four years, so I wonder whether they even are familiar with the local issues,” she said. “I also think students are likely to just vote for the candidate who is friendlier towards Yale, but there’s a lot more to the city that needs to be considered.”
Sanders said that a national law that only allows students to vote in their home states rather than in the state where they attend college should be considered as a viable alternative to the current situation.
Sly Williams, a private contractor for the New Haven based company S Williams Home Improvement, echoed Sanders’ uncertainty about Yalies voting tomorrow, saying that because students usually live in New Haven for a short time, they may not have a stake in city politics. But legislation preventing students from voting in their college town would be unfair to those who do plan on settling in New Haven, he added.
Still, Williams said that when he attended college in New York, he did not feel connected to local politics, so he doubts whether current Yalies are involved in New Haven.
“City politics do affect students, but if students are only going to be here for four years, then I don’t think they should be voting because the policies don’t really have any long-term impact on them,” he said.
Yale students who plan to vote today disagreed, saying that four years is enough time to become part of a city.
Liz Zhang ’16 a Houstonian who is registered to vote in Connecticut, said that although she understands why some residents might be frustrated when students with no knowledge of city politics decide on a whim to vote in city elections, students are affected by local political issues during their four years in New Haven.
Yale dining worker Tekiya Cutino also noted that New Haven could change significantly during a student’s tenure at Yale, so students should voice their opinions by voting.
It has not always been easy for students to vote in the state where they attend school, Yale spokesperson Mike Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said in an email to the News. He added that voting in the state where you go to school is a way to honor the efforts of those who worked to improve the rights of student voters.
In some states, students are still struggling to vote in their college towns. In August 2013, North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy signed revisions to the state’s election laws, eliminating college IDs from the list of valid forms of identification for voters and instead requires voters to show specific types of government-issued IDs. While this legislation does not overtly restrict out-of-state students from voting in North Carolina, it does create an extra hurdle for students who do not have a driver’s license from NC.
While Sanders said that this type of legislation could be a good way to ensure that temporary student residents do not have too much of a voice in government, Ward 1 resident Katherine Aragón ’14 said that such measures precluding students from voting are ridiculous.
“Lots of people move within four years anyway, so students have every right to vote in a city where they might only be living temporarily,” she said.
Ultimately, Aragón said, it should be a student’s choice whether they vote in their home state or in their college state.
The majority of students who were interviewed said that their decision of where to register ultimately depended on how impactful their vote would be in their home state versus in Connecticut. Of the 15 eligible student out-of-state student voters who were interviewed, six said they plan to vote in their home state because their vote would “count more.”
Abby Okazaki ’16 said that she registered to vote in her home state of Hawaii last year because she felt it was important to vote in her home state’s senate elections, where incumbent Daniel Akaka was stepping down after serving three terms.
“I knew that election would be super important for the future of Hawaii, and I wanted to vote for someone who I felt would do a good job,” she said.
All students who decided to register in Connecticut said that their vote has a greater influence here than in their home state.
Eight of Yale’s 12 residential colleges are a part of Ward 1 and the remaining four are divided between Wards 7 and 22.