At the first Ward 1 Democratic Committee meeting of the school year, members planned to assist their party’s efforts at the state and national levels one vote at a time.
On Thursday evening, the committee met at Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center to discuss their plans for the upcoming presidential and Senate elections. The meeting was led by Ben Crosby ’14 and Nia Holston ’14, the co-chairs of the committee, a component of New Haven’s Democratic Town Committee, which elects delegates for state primary elections and endorses local candidates. Much of the meeting focused on getting out the vote for Democratic Senate candidate Chris Murphy.
“We’re trying to build in New Haven a politics that is transformative,” said Hugh Baran ’09, who attended the meeting as the coordinator of New Haven For Chris Murphy .
To that end, New Haven “needs to turn around,” he said. Baran emphasized the need for high voter turnout, stating that his goal this election is for 41,000 people to vote for President Barack Obama and Chris Murphy in New Haven, a much higher citywide Democratic voter turnout than the last presidential election. He also noted the low voter turnout in Ward 1 in 2008. “Students don’t feel invested in this place,” he said.
But Baran said he is increasingly optimistic about the voters of Ward 1, citing the record-breaking voter turnout for the Ward 1 aldermanic election last year. To the attendees of the meeting, he mentioned that each team of students canvassing on Yale campus is able to register 10 new voters each time on average.
“It’s really up to you guys how many people you want to get engaged and voting,” he said. “The Democratic Party is depending on us.”
A major obstacle to increasing turnout is misconceptions about convicted felons’ voting rights, a significant issue in New Haven that is “brought up in every Democratic Ward Committee meeting,” said Holston, who organizes registration drives for this very purpose.
“The misconceptions out there are staggering,” said Melissa Lavoie ’12, who works part-time at the New Haven Reentry Initiative, a non-partisan program that serves ex-felons looking for housing and employment, and Unlock the Vote, a program engaging people with criminal records in the political process. “If you’re done with [your] sentence and you’re done with parole, you can vote.”
Ward 28 Democratic Committee Co-chair Jess Corbett also attended the meeting and stressed the importance of registering “sporadic voters.”
“They’re the voters in your ward who didn’t even exist three months ago,” he said. “We need to go outside what the current polls are showing.”
At the end of the meeting, Christofer Rodelo ’15, a coordinator of the Ward 1 committee, held a forum for tips and experiences on canvassing. The most difficult part of canvassing, he said, is encountering “apathy.”