At Harvard's fall registration every year, the city of Cambridge sponsors a table encouraging students to resister to vote in municipal elections. In all the bustle and fan-fare, most students pass the table by. Some, though, do stop and decide to exercise their democratic muscle locally.
This year an estimated 1300 Harvard students registered. Since far fewer students are registered at other colleges in Cambridge, Harvard undergraduates form the bulk of the city's student electorate.
Their vote in the upcoming City Council elections is considered crucial by some candidates. Vice Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72, emphasizes the role students can play in choosing the nine city councillors.
"These are elections in which the difference between the ninth and tenth candidate can hinge on 50 votes. So the students' 500 to 600 votes can be decisive," he said.
The candidates emphasizing the Harvard vote most heavily this year are Francis H. Duehay '55 and Reeves. Both are candidates for the Cambridge Civic Association, Cambridge's liberal political alliance.
Duehay's student campaign is particularly ambitious.
"My attempt is to reach every registered student at Harvard with information about my background experience," Duehay said. He added that, because student mailing addresses change yearly, "the problem of campaign mail actually reaching [students] is considerable. Students are not getting as much information about candidates as they should."
Duehay's way around this obstacle is simple: he knocks on the door of every registered Harvard voter. Visiting one house per night, he typically starts door-knocking at around 9 p.m., an hour too late for campaigning in residential areas.
According to Duehay, actually seeing a candidate at their door impresses Harvard students who feel removed from the election.
"Most students are sort of surprised to find me at their doors. But I get a very positive feeling about having been there. I get the feeling they're going to vote, and my visit is influential in that respect," he said.
Reeves said he planned to visit personally as many students as possible before the election. He also campaigned in all the river house dining halls last week.
Candidates who court student votes emphasize a range of liberal issues. David C. Bunker '93, who is running Duehay's Harvard campaign, says these issues are especially important to the left-leaning undergraduate voting population.
"Harvard students tend to be a liberalizing influence on city politics. A lot of students who are more conservative tend not to register here because they find Cambridge too liberal," Bunker said.