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January 29, 2009

Jeff Feingold is Editor of NH Business Review's print and on-line editions. He has been a business journalist for more than 25 years, and recognized by the Small Business Administration as National Small Business Journalist of the Year.

The old college try

You may have at one time been able to muster some sympathy for Grafton County Republicans, who were essentially blindsided last November by the hordes of Obama-inspired Dartmouth College students who cast ballots.

In all, 2,250 Big Green students voted last November. The problem for the local GOP was that they weren”t just fired up to vote at the top of the ticket, they also cast votes down the ballot. As a result, the longtime county treasurer -- Plymouth Republican Carol Elliott – was kicked out of office. The winner? Dartmouth College junior Vanessa Sievers.

After the vote, Elliott earned a spot as a first-ballot inductee into the Sore Loser Hall of Fame, telling local and national media that she blamed her loss on “brainwashed” college students. She mentioned nothing about failing to understand the tidal wave of young voters – particularly college students -- that was long expected to sweep the nation that November.

Apparently, Grafton County Republicans – or at least members of the Hanover Republican Committee – had a sip out of Elliott”s cup of Kool-Aid. At a meeting in January, the Hanover GOP spent a considerable amount of time complaining – at some points, “whining” might have been a more appropriate description – about the Dartmouth Effect. 

It turns out that Dartmouth students didn't necessarily vote straight Democratic ballots – there were quite a few Obama-Sununu ballots, for instance. The problem for the Grafton County GOP is that they almost en masse voted Democratic further down the ballot, including county races. But, as in so many other things in life, the initial response of at least some of the members of the Hanover committee was to assume the position of victim. 

“I read it as toying with democracy,” said resident Jenni Stebbins, calling “what happened to Elliott” a “shame and a sham.” Perhaps. And what would they do to remedy the situation? One of the ideas – taken seriously until a member of the Dartmouth College Republicans shot it down – was for the student Republicans to ask their fellow non-GOP students not to vote in the county elections. And if that didn”t work, why not just spend the time encouraging students to vote in their home states?

Either way you slice it, sounds a lot like “toying with democracy” to me.


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