College “is where it starts,” said President Kaplan on the importance of the student vote.
With the West Haven Democratic primaries fast approaching, Kaplan and other UNH administrators are encouraging registered students to cast their votes.
At the Sept. 6 USGA meeting, Kaplan, along with Dean of Students Rebecca Johnson and Office of Intercultural Relations Director Wanda Tyler, spoke to student leaders, urging their participation in the upcoming election. Students, they summarized, have the powerful ability to influence local elections and determine who runs city government.
“As students, with you all being residents of West Haven during your four or five years here, you’re still invested—or should have an investment—in what’s going on here in West Haven,” Tyler said.
Incumbent mayor John Picard and challenger Ed O’Brien are on the ballot for the 2013 mayoral elections, and it’s important, Kaplan said, to understand the candidates’ positions on issues directly affecting the UNH community and campus.
However, Kaplan’s main focus is “not who the students vote for, but that they vote.” In a growing national trend, he states, less students are taking advantage of their right to vote, especially in local politics.
For four years, the University of New Haven is a home-away-from-home for many students. Yet, few tend to utilize the resources available on campus during election seasons, both local and national.
“We know in 2012 for the presidential election, we provided shuttle service to the polls, and only three students rode the shuttle to the polls. That doesn’t mean that only three students voted,” Kaplan said. “But we’ve got somewhere around 500 students on campus who are registered to vote that we know of. There’s probably more—some voted with absentee ballots in 2012 and some went in their own cars—but only three went on the shuttle, so the voter turnout is pretty low.”
One possible reason for this phenomenon is the weak bond residents may feel toward an area in which they did not grow up. However, great ways to get involved would be volunteering in the community or doing city clean-ups, Kaplan said.
It is also necessary to recognize the major role the city of West Haven plays on campus.
“It’s extremely important to students who sits in the mayor’s office, who sits on the city council, who sits on the planning and zoning committee, and among other things, what their position is on the importance of the university,” Kaplan said.
When planning the building of Soundview, for example, Kaplan said the university had trouble getting it approved by the planning and zoning commission, while the new residence hall set to open in 2014 was met with much less difficulty. Projects like the Allingtown Coalition and other neighborhood improvements are examples of constant collaborations between the university and West Haven to improve the overall lifestyle of students and the community.
These efforts directly correlate to the political atmosphere of West Haven and the relationship it shares with UNH. As voters, students must therefore envision the direction they see UNH going in the future, and how elected officials may impact the university, Kaplan added.
Registered Democrats may vote in the primaries this Tuesday, Sept. 10, by going to Forest School at 95 Burwell Road; shuttles are available for those without transportation.
If you would like to register as a Democrat for the Tuesday election, the walk-in registration deadline is Monday, Sept. 9, at 12 p.m. You may bring your completed Connecticut Voter Registration Form to city hall. Wanda Tyler of the Office of Intercultural Relations will also be collecting completed registration forms until 10 a.m. Monday, which will be hand-delivered by the office to city hall.
Not a Democrat, or don’t have time to register? Members of all political affiliations may vote in the general election this November. The mail-in and walk-in registration deadlines are Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, respectively.
Voter registration tables will be set up Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., from Sept. 10 to Oct. 10 in the Bartels Campus Center. Students can also obtain voter registration forms by visiting the Bartels Info Desk, Office of Student Activities, Office of Intercultural Relations, Dean of Students Office, Office of Residential Life or online at www.newhaven.edu/unhvotes