Record Number of Voters Register In Connecticut; Officials Say They Are Prepared
Posted to: Election 2016, Election Fact Check, Election Policy, Town News, Hartford, West Hartford, Legal, Transparency
HARTFORD, CT — In 2010, Bridgeport ran out of ballots. And in 2014 Hartford voters at some polling places were unable to vote first thing in the morning because the official voter check lists had not been delivered on time.
“The same bad thing never happens twice quite the same way,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday.
The sheer number of voter registrations over the last month has been “astonishing,” Merrill said, but it remains to be seen if the increase in voter registration will result in an increase in voter turnout.
As of Wednesday, an all-time record of 2,139,870 voters had registered to vote. That’s more than the 2,104,989 who registered in 2008 when President Barack Obama was running for his first term.
Merrill said she sees registering to vote as an expression of interest in voting on Nov. 8.
“If you’re going to register, you’re probably going to come vote,” Merrill said.
At the same time, she said, there’s a lot of talk about how nobody likes the two major party candidates running for president.
In 2008, 78 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. In 2012, the last presidential election, voter turnout was 74 percent.
Merrill said this year’s participation could surpass turnout in 2008, but this election has been so unusual that it’s hard to make a prediction.
West Hartford Town Clerk Essie Labrot said her town has issued about 4,400 absentee ballots so far, a number that’s been fairly consistent over the past few years.
A state law allows voters for whatever reason to withdraw their absentee ballot before 10 a.m. on Nov. 8 and vote in person if they choose.
In this presidential election, with all the twists and turns in the presidential contest, it’s possible voters may change their minds. But exercising this option hasn’t happened much at all.
“It’s rare,” Labrot said. “I’ve seen one in maybe eight years.”
As for those “Make America Great” and “Nasty Woman” T-shirts, hats, or mugs, election officials are asking voters to leave them at home.
Poll moderators at the 760 polling places in Connecticut will have the final say, but Merrill recommends leaving anything questionable like that outside the 75-foot campaign-free perimeter around all polling places.
Merrill said everyone is entitled to free speech, but those slogans are strongly associated with the campaigns and moderators could ask people to remove them or cover them up inside the polling place.
“It gets tricky when you’re trying to regulate that,” Merrill said. “Those are the kinds of close calls that the moderators will have to make because there’s no real defined line there.”
As for those ballot selfies? They’re allowed as long as people don’t cause a distraction or hold up the line in the polling place.
“Ballot selfies are not illegal,” Merrill said. “Whether you choose to take a picture of yourself and your ballot because you’re proud of your vote, you know, it’s up to you. However, it cannot spill over to something disruptive in the polling place.”
This is the first year Connecticut has Election Day Registration, so if you forgot to register you can do so on Election Day at a central location in a city or a town.
“Do not go to the polls to register to vote, you will be turned away,” Melissa Russell, president of the Registrar of Voters Association, said.
She recommended calling your city or town to find out where Election Day registration is happening. She also recommended going early because if you’re not registered by 8 p.m. when the polls close, you won’t be able to vote. Those who are registered to vote and are in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
As far as photo ID is concerned, Connecticut requires proof of residency, which can be a photo ID or drivers license, but it can also be a utility bill or some other proof of residency.
Voters can also use the state website to locate their polling place.
Russell said based on the number of voters registered this year, it’s probably going to take voters at least a half hour to vote.
“Don’t think you’re going to get out of there in five minutes because it’s not going to happen,” Russell said.
The Connecticut Bar Association will have 110 lawyers on call to respond to any problems that might occur at polling places. The lawyers will supplement the four Merrill has on staff.