With yard signs and pamphlets in tow, Michael Smith ’06 stood outside Dwight Hall Tuesday morning prepared to talk to anybody who would listen about mayoral candidate Sherri Killins. The only problem for Smith was that nobody was there to vote.
Although the Democratic primary between Killins and five-term incumbent John DeStefano Jr. became increasingly heated in recent weeks, many Yale students were unaware that there was even an election on Tuesday. In Ward 1, which is comprised almost entirely of students, turnout was surprisingly low as shopping period, intramurals and the strike of locals 34 and 35 occupied the campus’s attention.
Smith, Killins’ campaign manager, said few passers-by on Old Campus expressed any interest in the election.
“Ward 1 is a very inactive ward. We have the least amount of registered people,” Smith said Tuesday morning. “We’ll be lucky if we get 300 people to come out today.”
In fact, when the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, only 129 people had voted in Ward 1, slightly more than 15 percent of the ward’s 850 registered Democrats. Despite a beautiful day, fewer people showed up to Dwight Hall than during the last mayoral primary, when 226 voters went to the polls — even though that race was held on Sept. 11, 2001.
City-wide, turnout was typically low in wards, like Ward 1, where aldermanic candidates were not opposed. Overall, early returns showed 10,505 Democrats had voted, about 29 percent of the city’s 36,000 registered Democrats.
From a suite in Branford, members of the Yale College Democrats, who were campaigning for DeStefano, called Democrats in Ward 1 and asked them to come to the polls. Lauren Burke ’05, who ran the College Democrats’ efforts in Ward 1, said many registered voters were not interested in an election that lacked a statewide or national race.
“I feel like people just weren’t that well-informed about the campaign,” Burke said. “It is the first week back, so people didn’t know what was going on.”
Janine Hum ’04, who is registered in New Haven and voted in the 2000 presidential election, said she did not feel like she had much at stake in this primary. When asked what she thought about the candidates, Hum said she knew little about DeStefano or Killins.
“I was swamped with shopping and I’m nowhere close to being done picking classes,” Hum said. “Since I’ve gotten back, you don’t really stop and take in any news whatsoever.”
In Ward 22, where students from Ezra Stiles, Morse, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges voted, election officials said turnout was relatively high. But while three aldermanic candidates — incumbent Mae Ola Riddick, eventual winner Drew King and Douglas Bethea — stood outside the polling site in the Dixwell neighborhood, Yale students were few and far between.
Josh Johnson ’06, a DeStefano voter who walked to the Ward 22 polling site on Bristol Street, said few of his classmates in Stiles planned to come out and vote.
“I get the feeling around campus that people don’t know much about local politics,” Johnson said. “I’m not even that sure what an alderman is.”