As elections approach, many students are starting to decide how they will vote — for which candidates and in which state.
Since the huge majority of Yale students hail from states outside Connecticut, most can either vote locally or in their home states using absentee ballots. Some undergraduates interviewed — especially those from “swing” states — said they use the latter option to maintain involvement in home-town or home-state politics, but others said they think students should instead shift their focus to both local and state politics once in their new homes.
Eric Kafka ’08, president of the Yale College Democrats, said he thinks two kinds of people use absentee ballots — those who are particularly invested in a given race, and those who come from states with highly competitive elections.
“An absentee ballot takes more effort, but it’s worth the time if you feel you can be a decisive vote.” Kafka said.
Jordan Sharpe ’11 said she has used absentee ballots to vote in her home state of Kentucky in the past and plans to do so in the upcoming November governor’s election, which is expected to be closely contested. She said although she has been encouraging her friends to apply for absentee ballots, she missed the application deadline.
Sharpe said absentee ballots often require advance planning. To receive a mailed absentee ballot in Kentucky, for instance, a voter must contact the county clerk’s office seven days before the election, she said.
But Lea Krivchenia ’08 said she once voted using an absentee ballot while in India and found the process surprisingly easy. Krivchenia — who has voted by absentee ballot in her home state of Illinois while at Yale but is currently registered in Conn. — said she decides her registration based on the relative importance of each election.
“I choose [where I vote] based on what’s going on politically,” she said.
Kathryn Baldwin, vice president of activism for the Yale College Republicans, said using absentee ballots is especially simple in states that allow voters to apply for ballots online.
Two students interviewed — Allyson Goldberg ’08 and Daniel Spector ’11 — said they will vote at home because they do not think they are knowledgeable enough about New Haven and Connecticut politics to make informed decisions.
But Kafka said there are benefits to voting in Connecticut instead of using an absentee ballot. He said voting in person gives voters a sense of security in knowing that votes will be counted and eliminates the fear of a ballot being lost in the mail or while in processing.
Election information is also more accessible when voting in Connecticut, because voters are immersed in candidates’ television commercials, posters and speeches, which make it easier to stay connected, Kafka said. He said New Haven is entering an important season, with incumbent mayor John DeStefano facing off against H. Richter Elser ’81 and Ralph A. Ferruci.
Kafka said he thinks registration in Connecticut should be required for all students and that all Yalies should participate in the upcoming mayoral election.
“For four years, we are citizens of New Haven,” Kafka said. “It’s important … to be engaged in the community.”
But Baldwin said she thinks students should vote in Connecticut only if there are no important races at home, which is unlikely given the upcoming presidential primaries.
The Secretary of State or Director of Elections of each state oversees voter registration and absentee ballot requests.