Conventional wisdom: President Obama’s voters lost their enthusiasm this time.
Reality on the ground in New Haven: More people voted for him this year than in his history-making 2008 election. And African-American voters waited as long as an hour and a half to cast their ballots.
That picture emerges from the certified final results from Tuesday’s election.
It showed that 39,865 New Haveners in all cast their ballots for Democrat Obama, who won a second term nationwide. That figure narrowly topped the 39,112 New Haveners who voted for Obama in 2008 when he became the country’s first African-American president.
Obama clobbered Republican Mitt Romney by a margin of 9 to 1 in the city. Romney collected 4,430 votes.
The margin and the raw numbers re-cemented the reputation of New Haven’s labor-led Democratic vote-pulling operation, which has grown in prowess over the past two years, providing large, lopsided margins of victory for statewide candidates. On Tuesday, New Haven delivered a 30,000-vote margin of victory for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy, despite Republican opponent Linda McMahon’s creative and expensive attempts to peel off urban votes. Murphy beat McMahon 34,505 to 4,465 in New Haven.
The Registrar of Voters office released the full results, including absentee and overseas ballots and initially undecipherable ballots, late Wednesday afternoon. Click here to read the results.
Among the highlights, besides the Obama and Murphy results:
• Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson pulled in 229 votes in the New Haven vote, Independent Rocky Anderson 119.
• Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Paul Passarelli pulled 327 new votes.
• A ballot resolution to advise the U.S. government to transfer military spending to job-creation, infrastructure, and “pressing human needs,” passed easily: 23,398 to 4,152.
Take that, Pentagon!
Hope Was Still Alive
One of the more striking scenes was in Newhallville, where all day voters waited in long lines to cast ballots at the Ward 20 Lincoln-Bassett School polling spot (pictured).
Predominantly African-American neighborhoods, like Newhallville, traditionally have among the lowest turnouts in New Haven elections. Ward 20 ended up giving Obama by far his highest vote total in the city Tuesday, 2,008. (Romney’s ward total: 31.) Ward 20 had the third-highest overall turnout of voters, 2,042. (Westville Ward 25 had 2,175; East Rock’s Ward 10 had 2,138.)
During the early-morning vote rush, while other high-voting wards had waits of 30 to 60 minutes, the wait extended 90 minutes at Lincoln-Bassett. The wait remained as long as 30 minutes during the mid-day down time. It went back up during the final after-work voting hours.
As the polls were about to close, at least one voter rushed over in pajamas for a chance to cast a ballot.
The pundits kept saying all fall that black voters had lost their ardor for Obama. They apparently didn’t speak to the voters of Ward 20.
“It’s Obama that’s got them fired up,” the ward’s alderwoman, Delphine Clyburn, said at the polls. Clyburn, a union organizer, was among the labor-backed candidates elected to New Haven’s Board of Aldermen last fall; she has continued to organize a grassroots base in her ward, as evidenced by Tuesday’s results.
One 54-year-old man showed up to vote for the first time in his life. The voter (who declined to give his name) is on disability. “I just want Obama back in” because of the support he has shown for programs for the poor, the man said. He spoke of qualifying for a free phone under Medicare. “I ain’t never seen a president do that before,” he said.
I call him the Clean-Up Man,” Aliecia Winfrey (pictured), a 46-year-old public-school paraprofessional, said of Obama as she waited on line along with her 22-year-old son, who was voting for the first time. Winfrey said she has the same enthusiasm for Obama as she had in 2008.
Obama “deserves to finish the job he started,” agreed Renee Mercer, a 47-year-old nurse.
The Center Grows
In some black and Latino neighborhoods, voting total dropped in New Haven. While the overall number of voters slightly rose from 2008, the turnout was technically smaller—because of the number of registered voters grew. That was the result of several aggressive registration drives in the last two months of the campaign, lifting New Haven from around 63,000 registered voters to over 71,000, the highest figure in two decades.
After a day of parsing the numbers, Mayor John DeStefano arrived at two main conclusions about Tuesday’s official totals:
• The citywide totals were roughly the same as in 2008—yet they were distributed differently. The largest shift, the biggest spike in votes, came in the center of the city, represented by parts of Wards 6, 7, 8, and 9.
The reflected the “explosion of the center city” in New Haven, DeStefano said. “I think the city’s changing.” More empty nesters are moving to the center of town, as are young professionals.
That mirrors a nationwide trend, he noted, and a second major observation about Tuesday’s results:
• Cities are back politically. In Connecticut, they’re playing a big role in electing Democrats. Democrats emerged from Tuesday’s election holding all five U.S. House seats, both U.S. Senate seats, the governor’s office, all other statewide constitutional office, and healthy majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
While New Haven Democrats have local factional feuds, in state and national elections they speak with a single strong voice. “That’s not just happening here,” DeStefano observed. “That’s increasingly happening around the state. Large population centers for state and national politics are dreams for Democrats.”