Student Voting at Dartmouth

by Daniel Linsalata | 11/10/04 6:00am

In perusing the full election results from New Hampshire, I stumbled upon an incredibly disturbing fact: Although incumbent Republican Sen. Judd Gregg was handily re-elected (indeed, he carried all but eight of the 237 precincts in the state), he lost by nearly a 20-point margin in Hanover. Ours was the only town in which he lost to a 96-year-old grandmother who had never before held public office, by more than eight percentage points.

Let me back up a moment before explaining why this is such devastating news and pinning the blame squarely on the Young Democrats and their Get Out the Vote efforts. Gregg is a two-term incumbent, and one of the most powerful members of the Senate. He serves as the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as a high-ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. As a result of these positions, Gregg has been able to make Dartmouth the single largest recipient of pork-barrel money in the country; money which goes towards research, faculty development and community projects, among others. The annual sum exceeds $70 million, an unquestionable boon to the College. Had Doris Granny D Haddock been elected, New Hampshire would have lost the Committee seats, and Dartmouth, its appropriations. I do not need to pontificate on how disastrous this could be for the College.

So why, then, would the Hanover precinct, where a large percentage of voters are Dartmouth students, vote overwhelmingly to oust the man who brings so much financial support to Dartmouth? This brings us back to the Young Dems. To their credit, their voting drive was surely a herculean effort, with undeniably impressive results. My fear, however, is that most of the voters who turned out essentially fell into one of two categories: those who had never voted before and voted a straight Democratic ticket because they were essentially told to, and those who had never voted before and voted a straight Republican ticket because they were sick of taking crap from the Democrats (like a good handful of people who I have since spoken to). This brings to light the issue of turning out voters versus turning out educated voters. It is not simply enough to vote just because; one votes because he or she has a deep understanding of the issues and candidates.

It is for this reason that I chose to vote at home, rather than in New Hampshire; I didn't know anything about the candidates here save for the president and Senate, and felt unqualified choosing judges, sheriffs, state reps, etc. If thousands of people are voting for a candidate based simply on his or her party, then democracy is beginning to fail.

And therein lies my fundamental problem with all get out the vote drives: Voting is a basic right in America, and it is your choice as to whether or not you exercise it. If you choose to, you should be able to do so on your own, without fanatical college students breathing down your neck about it for three weeks. I can't help but feel that the Young Dems' efforts accomplished little except turn out droves of uneducated voters, and the defeat of a candidate whose re-election was clearly in the best interest of everyone in Hanover serves as irrefutable proof.

While I am not denying the importance of getting as many voters out as possible, I am simply imploring people, for next time, to vote because they truly understand and care about the candidates and issues, with a blindness to party affiliation, particularly if the candidates are simply ballot fillers, as in the cases of Doris Haddock or Paul Hodes. Fortunately, both were soundly defeated, but not by the largely transient Hanover voting bloc. I'm willing to bet that most students did not know such was the case, which only further proves my point: Before following someone's order to go vote, take the time to understand exactly what it is you're voting for.