As the two candidates make their final push for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alder ahead of today’s primary, their voter outreach efforts have generated backlash from students who say the campaigns’ on-campus canvassing has grown excessive.
Today, polls are open for voters to elect the Democratic nominee for Ward 1 alder. The campaigns of the two Democratic candidates, Fish Stark ’17 and Sarah Eidelson ’12, quickly intensified as freshmen moved into their dorms in late August. Last week, they reached a fever pitch leading up to today’s primary. Canvassers for the campaigns have knocked on every door on Old Campus and in the eight residential colleges in Ward 1 in order to convey their message to students across the University. But many freshmen, the primary targets of the outreach, have criticized the two campaigns, calling them “pushy” and “obnoxious.”
Stark said his campaign has ramped up its canvassing efforts over the past week. In an interview with the News Tuesday afternoon, he said his representatives planned to canvass every suite on campus on Tuesday night.
“We sent out as many canvassers as possible and we’ve knocked on the door of every registered Democrat multiple times,” he said. “Our strategy since March has been to have as many conversations with people as possible.”
Similarly, Eidelson said dozens of students have knocked on doors for her campaign over the last two weeks, working alongside many of her fellow alders. Earlier this week, Eidelson announced endorsements from Mayor Toni Harp and state Sen. Martin Looney, as well as 19 current alders. Eidelson said she and Harp have been “effective partners” over the last four years, particularly in tackling youth issues in the city.
But the candidates’ outreach efforts have left some students feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Of the 12 freshmen interviewed, eight described the canvassing efforts of the Stark and Eidelson campaigns in negative terms.
“It’s a passive-aggressive kind of thing,” Michael Wong ’19 said. “If it was more of an optional thing rather than forced, I’d be more compelled to sign [voter registration forms].”
Wong added that he decided not to register partly because he found the canvassers “annoying.”Nicole Mo ’19 said she and her suitemates alert each other if they see a canvasser nearby.
“I once let a canvasser into our building, and I got a lot of [flak] for that,” Mo said.
Four freshmen said they had registered to vote in Connecticut. Emil Beckford ’19, who registered through Stark’s campaign, said he “[wanted] to have a voice” in local politics.
But Beckford said he remains unconvinced by the two candidates, partly because their campaigning strikes him as excessive.
“They’ve been pretty pushy, and I still don’t know who I’m voting for … so it’s been ineffectual,” Beckford said.
Sam Lee ’19 and Isa Magraner ’19 complained that canvassers from both campaigns attached fliers to their suite doors without requesting permission. Magraner, who is running for Calhoun representative on the Freshman Class Council, said she believes such tactics risk alienating potential voters.
Stark’s campaign has adopted policies that could address some of these concerns. Stark said he has instructed canvassers to respect the wishes of students who put do-not-knock signs on their doors or ask the campaign not to make return visits.
Stark’s campaign tactics have faced administrative pushback in the past. On freshman move-in day, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck ordered Stark to move his campaign table off Yale property. Stark objected, saying he was simply registering voters, but he ultimately relocated to Elm Street. Eidelson also campaigned on move-in day but was not asked to leave Yale property. Many students, including Sam Leander ’19, said they felt that campaigning on move-in day was inappropriate.
The Republican candidate for Ward 1 alder, Ugonna Eze ’16, has also criticized his Democratic opponents’ outreach strategies. Earlier this month, Eze said his campaign, which has no election to contest until November, decided not to canvass during Camp Yale, because he believes the first days of freshman year are a special time that should remain unencumbered by politics.
Eze’s campaign recently held its first major event: a gathering on Old Campus to play volleyball, eat pizza and discuss recycling and sustainability initiatives in the city.
Students can vote in the Democratic primary today at the New Haven Free Public Library from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.