On Tuesday, when many Yalies opened their doors, they were greeted with a simple command: “Vote!” The statement was printed on plastic bags from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, which the Yale College Democrats hung on the doors of every registered voter at Yale.
Both the Dems and the Yale College Republicans scrambled for months to shift Tuesday’s election in favor of their candidates.
In the months leading up to the campaign, the Dems worked on the campaigns of DeLauro and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry, while the Republicans aided 3rd District congressional candidate Richter Elser.
After Monday night’s door hanging, however, the Dems stopped their campaigning efforts and focused on getting out the vote. With their home base at McClellan Hall, the Dems covered one wall of the room with the lists of Ward 1’s registered voters. Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chair Michelle Mayorga ’03 said the Dems kept track of who had voted and called those who had not yet visited the polls.
“Later in the day, when we get a little more desperate, we go from room to room,” said Brad Kahn ’04, vice-president of the Dems.
Kahn said the Dems who made calls and went door-to-door did not encourage voters to vote for the Democratic Party candidate, though he said most of the voters at Yale were Democrats anyway.
“There was no partisan spin on it,” said Adam Taubman ’04, who was visited in his dorm room by a member of the Dems.
Taubman said he knew the Dems member who encouraged him to vote and did not mind the interruption, but noted that other students may have found the visits annoying.
But for some students, the Dems’ presence virtually invisible.
“I didn’t see them,” said Frederick Jelks ’05. “I didn’t vote — I’m pretty indifferent.”
The YCR did not participate in any local efforts to get out the vote, since New Haven and Yale are predominantly democratic, YCR Secretary Seth Schlessinger ’03 said. They did, however, work with Elser in his unsuccessful bid for the 3rd Congressional District and met with Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland.
YCR chairwoman Victoria Yen ’03 received an e-mail at 3 a.m. with a succinct message:
“GOP has majority in senate and house!!! George W. rocks!! Have a great day!” wrote one YCR member.
Schlessinger said the members of the YCR were pleased and excited about the results of the election.
“It really was historic for a Republican president to pick up seats in the House and the Senate,” he said.
Kahn said he had mixed feelings about the results of the election.
“Locally, we were glad to have DeLauro reelected,” Kahn said. “Obviously, nationally we were disappointed with the results.”
Other Yale students went to more extreme lengths to help their candidates. Joshua Foer ’03 and six of his suitemates drove to New Hampshire in a last-ditch effort to win a Senate seat for Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who was locked in a close race with Republican Rep. John Sununu. On Monday night, they slept on the floor of Democratic headquarters and woke up at 5:00 a.m. to hand out pamphlets and make phone calls.
“I was calling either registered Democrats or people who had expressed their support for Jeanne Shaheen,” Foer said.
In an op/ed in the Yale Daily News last Thursday, Foer explained why he drove to New Hampshire.
“Had there been 100 more students like us helping to bring voters to the polls in Florida in 2000, it might have made the difference in who our president is today,” Foer wrote. “I don’t know whether we can make the difference in New Hampshire in 2002, but I do know that we can’t sit on our hands when so much is at stake.”
Foer said he and his suitemates drove home when the polls closed and heard of Shaheen’s defeat on the radio.
“It was really disheartening,” Foer said. “Everything we were most afraid of happening was happening.”
Back in Connecticut, one Yale student has been accused of using a more direct, and illegal, route to manipulate the outcome of the election. Michael Montano ’03, former campaign manager for Ward 16 Democratic Town Committee co-chair candidates Magda Natal and Denise Maldonado, was arrested Oct. 22 for ballot fraud.
Montano is accused of falsely affirming that he aided nine Fair Haven voters in completing applications for absentee ballots in March’s election. A signed affidavit states that one of the nine voters knew Montano’s name or could recognize his picture. If convicted, Montano could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
But some Yalies interested in politics chose to stay out of the partisan fray altogether, choosing to work at Dwight Hall, the polling place for Ward 1.
“People are needed here as much as they are needed out there,” said Lauren Burke ’05, who checked in voters Tuesday.
The efforts to get out the vote seem to have been successful, with many saying they were surprised with the number of votes cast.
“We got just under 600 voters in Ward 1,” Kahn said. “For a midterm election, that’s huge.”