Letter to the Editor: Student Votes Are Welcome

Students made an informed decision on Article 9. ​

by Stephens Fowler | 5/12/17 12:17am

This past Tuesday, the Hanover town meeting voting process underwent a “stress test” resulting from the welcome but unprecedented student turnout, spurred by the inclusion of a proposed zoning amendment addressing “student residences.” Elected officials and a staff of volunteer assistants, who typically prepare for 1000 voters but expect far fewer, needed to process about 3,500 voters, including 244 same-day registrants. As always, students came to vote in several surges throughout the day, often by the busload.

In my capacity as town moderator, the elected official legally responsible for overseeing all town elections, I want to congratulate the eligible voters among the Dartmouth student body for their enthusiastic and constructive participation in both the balloted election process and the later business session of town meeting. Students were uniformly polite, upbeat and patient with the delays that their participation engendered. I hope that student voters felt that they were treated with courtesy and respect.

I am particularly grateful to the six to eight student voters who volunteered to assist in the incredibly labor intensive process of tabulating the approximately 2,000 complex ballots that required hand counting. This process started at the beginning of the business meeting and continued without break until 2 a.m. The student volunteers brought great energy and focus to the mundane, but serious, process of tabulating the election results. Their contribution was important and appreciated. One of my warmest recollections of the 2017 town meeting will be the sight of Dartmouth students tabulating and cross-checking ballots in the early hours of Wednesday morning alongside a senior Dartmouth professor — also a last minute citizen volunteer — who is an internationally-recognized expert on democratic elections. This was truly “experiential learning.”

The participation by Dartmouth students as registered voters at the business meeting in the evening was equally thoughtful and constructive. Students who voted by ballot showed respect to the permanent residents of Hanover by largely confining their voting to the matters of particular interest to them. The results for individual issues and the observed patterns of voting on the ballots suggests that students had thoughtfully considered the implications of the zoning measure and did not vote as a bloc.

Town officials have long fought to protect the right of qualified Dartmouth students to register to vote in all elections conducted by the town, including state and national elections. The constructive participation by students in the recent Town Meeting affirmed for me the wisdom of that effort.

– Steve Fowler ’65

Fowler is the Hanover Town Moderator and a member of the Class of 1965.

The Dartmouth welcomes guest columns. We request that guest columns be the original work of the submitter.

Submissions may be sent to both opinion@thedartmouth.com and editor@thedartmouth.com. Submissions will receive a response within three business days.