New Haven voters seeking to participate in Connecticut’s same-day registration process faced a daunting challenge late Tuesday afternoon: A line consisting of more than 130 people by 5 p.m., some of whom would likely wait for at least three hours.
City registrars, who were busily processing forms and ballots, were not available for comment during the day. Nonetheless, by about 6:00 p.m., staffers at City Hall had registered about 500 New Haven residents — five times the usual number of voters, according to moderator Richard DiNardo.
Emefa Addo Agawu ’15 said she had heard speculation that the long lines occurred because there were not enough staff to keep up with the increase in the number of voters who registered at City Hall. The New Haven Independent reported that the city had anticipated 200 people participating in same-day registration; instead, over 700 people came to City Hall to register. About 100 were turned away, according to the Independent. City attorney Cherie Phoenix said she did not know what factors were contributing to the long line. She noted that some hiccups were natural, as same-day registration is still a new process, but the line was still unexpectedly long.
DiNardo said that the swell of people lined up for registration could be attributed to voters responding to the close state of the gubernatorial race. Elm City resident Charlie Davidson, for instance, said that he was motivated to register and vote after realizing how close the gubernatorial election would be through news reports.
Several Yale students said they experienced long wait-times to vote at City Hall. Lakshman Somasundaram ’17 finally registered and voted around 4:40 p.m. He had been waiting for two hours and 15 minutes. Chiara Klein DRA ’17 said that her one and a half hours spent in line — with potentially another hour to go — were well worth the wait.
“I knew that fewer people come for the midterm elections,” Klein said. “I wanted my vote to count.”
After spending nearly an hour to reach the middle of the line, New Haven resident Sean Watson said that he was willing to wait to cast his vote. He said that the results of the gubernatorial election would have a significant effect on public education.
April Wen ’17 said she had decided to vote today after Sarah Giovanniello ’16, who had canvassed Wen’s Morse dorm room earlier in the year, reminded her that same-day registration was an option. Wen said she was not angry about the long line.
“Being in this line means I missed something I was supposed to do, but it’s not a big deal,” Wen said.
Elena Anderson ’18 arrived around 5 p.m. to vote for the very first time. She said she was frustrated because she had earlier registered on campus, but, when she went to her polling place, she was told she needed to go to City Hall and register there.
Like many others who spoke with the News, she said she planned to stay until she had cast her ballot.
“The news reinforces the idea that their party line is the best way to go,” Davidson said.
As dinner time edged closer and the line grew longer, Agawu said she was concerned that people would choose to leave rather than waiting late into the evening. She negotiated with poll workers to bring Yale a cappella groups to City Hall to provide entertainment, and volunteers brought water and snacks. Nearly half of the members of a cappella group Proof of the Pudding soon arrived in the City Hall lobby to entertain voters with a short medley of songs, starting with “Too Darn Hot.”
As the line in City Hall continued to lengthen, canvassers stood at the back, urging voters to pay close attention to the ballot measures, particularly the measure focusing on the early voting amendment, according to canvasser Anthony Marincovich. He added that the heated gubernatorial campaigns have drawn voters’ attention away from the measures.
“[The ballot measures] haven’t really been covered that well in the media,” Marincovich said. “They’ve gotten lost in the shuffle.”
Volunteer at New Haven Voter Coalition Aaron Good said that, while he thinks many voters in the Elm City are in favor of the Early Voting Amendment, many residents do not know enough about the measure to make an informed decision. The ballot measure, aiming to expand access to absentee ballots and early voting, appears to have failed. As of press time, the “No” side had garnered 53.1 percent of the vote.
Same-day voter registration ended at 8:00 p.m, the same time that the polls closed last night.