Rocking the Vote
By Lindsay Keare
Published on Friday, October 5, 2012
“Dartmouth is the biggest voting bloc in New Hampshire.” This is a myth that can be busted right away. No, it can’t be true that the combined populations of Hanover and the College have enough voters to rival the Manchester, Concord, Keene and other city voting blocs.
However, the question that should be asked is this: Does Hanover have the highest percentage of Democratic voters of any town in New Hampshire?
The answer to that, in fact, is yes. In the 2008 presidential election, 82 percent of Hanover residents and Dartmouth students voted for Barack Obama, the highest percentage in the state. And given that only 55 percent of New Hampshire voters voted for him, this is an astoundingly high percentage.
Nearly 5,000 more Hanover residents voted for Obama than John McCain, a significant difference given that only 70,000 votes or so separated the two main candidates in the New Hampshire election. And Dartmouth students comprised a large portion of the 6,140 Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008. Mason Cole ’13, president of the College Democrats, estimated that approximately 2,500 of these voters were Dartmouth students.
The percentage of Democratic voters in Hanover has gone up substantially since the turn of the millennium. In 2000, only 65 percent of Hanover voters voted for Al Gore, and 77 percent voted for John Kerry in 2004. Interestingly enough, the number of Hanover voters has also increased by around 3,000 people since 2000. Essentially, all of these new voters are Democrats — the number of Republican voters actually declined slightly.
Ben Hawley ’16 said he thinks the combination of professors and young college student might explain why Hanover has such a high percentage of liberal voters. This trend is understandable, as voters under the age of 25 tend to lean left, according to Cole. However, these statistics are not exactly in line with the way that others perceive Dartmouth.
“It’s kind of odd because we’re always considered to be the conservative Ivy,” Cole said. “Overwhelming support [for the Democratic party] is something you see among a lot of our peer institutions. And I think it makes sense that at Dartmouth, you see the same thing.”
According to several students, Politicians are certainly cognizant of how significant of a voice Dartmouth students have in the election.
“Why would Joe Biden come if we weren’t a huge factor in the election?” Grace McDevitt ’14 said.
It’s not that surprising that many of the other New Hampshire cities with high percentages of Democratic voters are those with colleges, such as Keene State University, the University of New Hampshire and Plymouth State University.
“The young people culture is more opinionated and liberal nowadays,” McDevitt said. “I think the Democratic Party is more attractive to the younger population.”
Here on campus, the College Democrats are making sure that students voice these opinions by voting. These efforts have increased in the past few years, contributing significantly to the rise in the number of Hanover voters.
In 2010, the College Democrats actually drove people from the Collis Center to the polls, according to Cole. He estimated that 1,000 Dartmouth students voted in the 2010 midterm elections.
The upcoming presidential election is a big one for the College Democrats, and the group has already begun canvassing on campus.
“In major [elections], people are motivated on their own,” Cole said. “We’re trying to get that number as high as we can.”
A controversial voter identification law that requires voters to show valid, government-issued photo IDs in order to cast their vote recently passed in the New Hampshire legislature, which will make it more difficult and inconvenient for some Dartmouth students to vote when it goes into effect in August 2013. Until then, however, any form of ID or a voter affidavit will be sufficient.
As the first state in the country to hold presidential primaries, New Hampshire certainly plays an important role in the election. Dartmouth may not be the largest voting bloc in the state of New Hampshire, but it still does its part to advance the democratic cause. No wonder Joe Biden wanted to come here.
Representatives from the College Republicans could not be reached for comment by press time.