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Student’s Electoral Victory Tainted

September 16, 1999

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A Yale University junior majoring in ethics and politics is getting a real-life lesson in both _ his win in a city Democratic primary has been tainted by allegations of voter fraud.

Asit Gosar, who also is majoring in economics, beat four-term incumbent Esther Armmand for the 7th Ward aldermanic seat Tuesday by a 298-269 vote. A win in the primary in this heavily Democratic city usually guarantees the winner a seat on the Board of Aldermen.

But Gosar didn’t have long to savor his victory. On Wednesday, the campus newspaper, the Yale Daily News, reported that 20 students who do not live in the 7th Ward voted in the primary after being recruited by Gosar’s campaign workers. The ward encompasses downtown and two of Yale’s residential colleges.

Gosar, 21, did not return telephone messages left at his dormitory.

It is not unusual for a Yale student to be elected to New Haven’s Board of Alderman. Several have been elected in the past.

Sharon Ferrucci, the Democratic Registrar of Voters in New Haven for the past 10 years, said that as far as she knows, the issue of student residency had never been raised before.

``When people register, no one is sworn, but they’re signing their name that everything on their voter card is true,″ she said.

Earlier this month, Armmand, 54, the director of prevention services and community relations at Alcohol Services Organization of South Central Connecticut Inc., successfully contested the voting rights of four Yale graduates who had registered to vote in absentia in the ward, though they no longer lived there.

Contacted Wednesday, Armmand said she had not decided whether to challenge the election.

``What I’m doing today is evaluating the information and based upon that, I’ll determine the proper course to take in the next couple of days,″ she said. ``You expect people to do the right thing.″

Armmand has 14 days to challenge the race in court. If a judge finds voter fraud, the election results could be set aside, and another election ordered.

Another option for Armmand would be to file a complaint with the state Elections Enforcement Commission, which can investigate any irregularities and enforce fines if wrongdoing is discovered. However, the results would stand.

Some Yale students who voted for Gosar said they are disturbed.

``I feel sort of used. It was my first voting experience. I didn’t know it was wrong for me to voting in Ward 7, even though my freshman dorm’s in Ward 2,″ said Melissa Merritt, an 18-year-old freshman from Columbus, Ohio.

However, 20-year-old junior Christine Bonanno of New Haven, who worked on Gosar’s campaign, said he won a hard-fought election.

``If there are any complaints, it’s up to the Registrar of Voters to determine what to do,″ she said.

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