Undergraduate Turnout Low On 'Stupor' Tuesday Primary
For the first time ever in a presidential primary Harvard students could vote in a College house, but, according to Cambridge election figures, even if a ballot box were installed in student suites turnout would be less than impressive.
Under the terms of a redistricting plan effective this year, the lobby of Quincy House this Super Tuesday became the home of the city's third district in the eighth ward. The new district has a 90 percent undergraduate population, according to election officials.
Yet, only 39 percent of registered voters cast their ballots at the Quincy polling place.
There are 613 registered voters in the precinct, which includes five Harvard houses, but only 238 voters cast ballots, including 197 Democrats and 41 Republicans.
At the same time, of 519 registered voters in Cambridge's second precinct, which includes the Yard dorms, only 214 ballots were cast, with 175 Democrats and 39 Republicans pulling the levers last Tuesday.
"Everybody knew that [Vice President George] Bush was going to win, and that [Gov. Michael S.] Dukakis would win the state, so most students probably thought there was no reason to vote," said Glenn S. Koocher '71, warden of the third precinct and supervisor of that precinct's polling location at Quincy House. "Everybody sensed that it was over before it was over," Koocher said.
This is the first year that Quincy House and the School of Education's Larsen Hall, where second precinct residents voted, have been used as polling sites. Koocher said that the polls have come to these University buildings because of the recent redistricting in Cambridge and the requirement that polls be made accessible to handicapped voters.
Those Harvard students who did vote on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported their favored son, Dukakis, and Rev. Jesse Jackson in the primary election.
As expected, Dukakis received the most support, gaining 173 of 372 Democratic votes--approximately 47 percent--at the two polling locations, while Jackson finished second among Democrats with 114 votes.
"I think that the students thought Jackson was exciting," Koocher said. "The student constituency has always been more activist when responding to a candidate who's more exciting."
The other Democratic candidates trailed far behind. Sen. Paul Simon (D-III) won 34 votes at the two Harvard voting locations, Sen. Albert J. Gore Jr. '69 (D.-Tenn) gained 29, Rep Richard Gephart (D.-Mo.) won eight and former senator Gary Hart collected only six votes.
On the Republican side, where a meager 80 GOP conservatives voted, Sen. Robert Dole (R.-Kan.) won 40 votes at the two polling places, George Bush received 32 and Pat Robertson won only a single vote.
Koocher said that Dole may have fared better at Harvard than he did in the nation because only the more conservative voters decided to cast their ballots, and most people consider Dole more conservative than Bush.