GW students and the ANC elections

The elections are over finally. Hallelujah!

The District of Columbia elected a man who has lived here for a handful of years, yet is viewed as the city’s savior. The nation as a whole did not view the election as a referendum on Clinton’s dalliances and instead dealt a stinging rebuke to the Republican Party. Back home in Queens, N.Y., my congressman, Chuck Schumer, finally got rid of good ol’ boy Sen. Pothole (Al) D’Amato. That made me feel good.

But what concerned me was what happened here in the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission races. As everyone has heard for months now, several GW students were running for ANC positions. This election was supposed to be the culmination of the months spent registering 800 or so GW students to vote in the District.

At the end of election night, however, there was not much to celebrate. No student was elected to the ANC. A pitiful fraction of the hundreds of students who registered to vote actually went out to the polls to cast their ballots. A glorious triumph it was not, although I truly admire the people who spent countless hours working their tails off to try to get GW students to make a difference. GW Votes Director Adam Siple deserves to be congratulated for the effort he put into the GW Votes campaign.

But what annoyed me was some of the students’ campaign strategies – their insistence that students should have voted for them solely because they were fellow students. That is as logical as saying that people should have voted for one of the candidates because he had detached earlobes and could therefore better relate to the common person.

The last time I checked, people are supposed to vote based on who they think would do the best job. Going out and shmoozing only GW student voters without addressing residents’ concerns was a great way of alienating a large chunk of the local population.

I also heard complaints that The GW Hatchet should have played a bigger role in supporting the student candidacies. Why? I did not realize that simply because we are a student newspaper, we have to serve as the propaganda ministry for student candidates. If candidates could not convince enough potential voters to support them, then no amount of one-sided coverage could help them.

But The Hatchet did screw up in one visible instance. In the Nov. 2 issue, a graphic on page six listed all the residence halls and what ANC single-member district they were in.

This information was almost completely wrong. The fault for that lies with me. I was using a map of the ANC 2A district that was two years old and whose boundaries were no longer in effect.

In theory, people who read that map and then went to vote in the incorrect district should have been told of the mistake and the correct polling location. Although it appears that some students might have voted in incorrect districts, the fault for that lies with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which distributed the wrong ballots. Nonetheless, that graphic was not one of my better moments.

So, now that the elections are a thing of the past, where do we go from here? My guess is that things will not change all that much. The University still will fight with the ANC and vice versa.

What might change, however, is the recognition by residents that students really do care and matter. If 800 students registered as District voters, then they must have some sort of connection to this city. It is a shame that more students did not come out and vote. But think of what sort of voting bloc those 800 students can be in the future.

For student political organizers, the election has a silver lining. The question is whether they have the vision and foresight to take advantage of that potential.

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