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The GW Hatchet

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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Perspective: Why I’m changing my voter registration to DC

I’m the world’s worst political hack.

I try so hard to be a good strategic political operator: I work in nonpartisan election forecasting. I’m even moving to Montana for the summer just to be in the middle of the most competitive Senate race. Four years after the fact, I still poke fun at my mom for donating money to Amy McGrath’s longshot challenge to Mitch McConnell when there were other, more strategically viable races. But I can’t detach myself from incredibly cheesy political ideals.

I tear up at over-the-top speeches in Aaron Sorkin movies. I get invested in local politics and politicians, even though they’re less discussed in the national political calculus. That’s why I’m changing my voter registration to D.C., because the local politics of the District actually impact my life and I want the chance to be involved in them.

Growing up, there wasn’t much reason for me to be glued to my television screen on Election Day, eagerly awaiting the results of that year’s mayoral elections. My hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, is as blue as it gets, about 80 percent, to be exact.

I still always took an interest in the city’s political developments, though. When I was 3, then-media executive Ned Lamont primaried moderate, now former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. After seeing signs for Lamont and Lieberman all over East Rock, I asked my parents who the candidates were.

A few weeks later, I met Lamont at a local fireman’s carnival. You could’ve put Elmo himself at that carnival, and 3-year-old me wouldn’t have been more excited. I told Lamont that I didn’t like Lieberman — and he scolded me for being so negative while he tried to run a positive campaign.

Shockingly, despite his political tact when I met him, Lamont lost the general election. But neither his reprimand nor loss discouraged my interest in New Haven’s political happenings — the dramas of the Elm City’s government remained as much of a part of my life as they were at the age of 3.

The summer before I came to GW, I was a reporter for the New Haven Independent, a bastion of local journalism. I was on the Mayor Justin Elicker beat in a reelection year. I went around to cover library openings and vaccination centers the mayor spoke at while my co-workers covered events from his progressive challenger.

Politicians like Elicker and Lamont have been major figures to me my whole life. Rosa DeLauro, the longtime New Haven-area representative, was a childhood hero of mine with her purple hair and love of New Haven pizza. She’s such a part of day-to-day life in the city a family friend named their puppy after her. But all my ties to New Haven are now gone.

After my freshman year of college, my mom moved out to the New Haven exurb of Cheshire and took my voter registration with her. I’ve never really lived in the house for more than two weeks at a time, staying in D.C. during summers and sometimes even breaks.

The town of Cheshire, where I diligently sent my mail-in vote in 2022, is a whole different political beast than New Haven. Local elections are competitive, even with a slightly red tint. The municipality is situated within the state’s only competitive congressional district.

At first, I was excited to have my vote really matter in an election. I was going to get to vote in close elections, helping Democrats keep the House majority in a true toss-up race after years of seeing DeLauro reelected in noncompetitive landslides. But as I filled out my ballot, I found it filled with ultra-local questions about issues like school funding and tax increases.

I wasn’t sure how to vote on the questions — I have no connection to Cheshire. I’m not impacted by the area’s tax rates. It didn’t feel morally correct to vote on issues and topics that would never impact me, especially in an area I’ve never lived. Two years after the fact, I’ll confess, I’ve never felt any desire to look up the results of the ballot questions.

Instead, that Election Night, my eyes were trained on local election results in D.C. — maybe the only city in America that’s even more centered around the Democratic Party than New Haven. Even though the outcomes of all the races seemed pre-ordained, I wanted to see whether Initiative 82, a ballot measure to increase the tipped minimum wage, would pass. I reported on the story and saw flyers about it all around campus. It was a local issue in my home, and even though I hadn’t voted on it, I wished I had.

A year later, in 2023, I didn’t vote at all. The only elections on the ballot in Cheshire were town elections. My vote could’ve had an impact in a binary strategic sense. The election was a nail-biter, with the Republican Party being narrowly defeated after they planned their victory party in the town’s only fancy restaurant, noted for its preposterous portion sizes and Greek belly dancing nights.

I celebrated the victory of the Cheshire Democratic Party, but I didn’t regret not being a part of it. Cheshire isn’t my home, and while it’s great for my family that town-level decisions will be made by people who agree with them, it’s more important for me that decisions in D.C. are made by people I agree with.

It doesn’t make sense strategically to change my registration from a swing district to a place that lacks any congressional representation. But as the semi-tired adage goes, all politics are local. I want my vote to be local, too.

Nick Perkins, a junior majoring in political science, is the culture editor.

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