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Data: Connecticut Voter Registration Trends Up, With Some Exceptions

2020 changes in voter registrations in Connecticut.
Dave Eisenstadter
WSHU Public Radio
2020 changes in voter registrations in Connecticut.

Active voter registration increased almost everywhere in Connecticut over the past four years. The Secretary of the State said this week that registrations surpassed an all-time Connecticut record. Democrats and unaffiliated voters represented the vast majority of this increase, while Republican registration barely budged in comparison with 2016 numbers.

Data from the Secretary of the State’s office from earlier this month show active voter registration in Connecticut municipalities increased 3% on average. A few larger cities and towns actually declined. Mansfield, which houses the University of Connecticut’s flagship Storrs campus, saw a nearly 37% decline. New Haven and Waterbury also saw decreases of about 24% and 11% respectively.

In past election cycles, Mansfield, New Haven and Waterbury saw robust growth, in particular in 2008 and in 2016.

Connecticut voter registration trends from 2004 to 2020.
Credit Dave Eisenstadter / WSHU Public Radio
WSHU Public Radio
Connecticut voter registration trends from 2004 to 2020.

Anne Greineder, registrar of voters for Mansfield, said the ongoing pandemic has hit the town’s active voter rolls hard.

“A lot of students are now not on campus so they are registered wherever they are. They’re at home; they are registered there,” Greineder said.

Additionally, Mansfield’s voter canvas, which is used to remove inactive voters from the active voter list, was more detailed than usual this past year.

“This year we had a list of the students who graduated, which we had never had before. So we were able to send them letters and ask them if they are still residents of Mansfield,” Greineder said. "We got a lot of letters back saying I am no longer at UConn, and there were quite a few of them that had graduated several years ago.”

Greineder said UConn’s graduation being held online this past spring meant that there was an accessible list of graduates. “In previous years nobody ever thought of using that,” she said.

Greineder is preparing for an extremely unusual Election Day. Mansfield usually sees between 800 and 1,000 people take advantage of same-day registration, many of them students.

“We’re planning for that same number because we don’t know what else to plan for,” she said.

Tim DeCarlo, registrar of voters for the city of Waterbury, said his city’s decline in active voters has mostly to do with the city not having completed a city-wide canvas of voters for more than 20 years, despite a state law requiring an annual canvas of voters.

DeCarlo said New Haven likewise completed a city-wide canvas recently, which could account for its drop in voters. New Haven city officials did not return requests for comment.

“We had a large amount of voters who had not voted in eight years or more, some going back 20 years who hadn’t cast a ballot,” DeCarlo said. “So in 2018, anyone who had not voted in eight years or more received a letter from our office asking if they still lived at that address. At that point, if they did not respond or it was delivered as undeliverable back to our office, voters were moved to inactive status.”

DeCarlo said an inactive voter is still a voter, and it takes a further five years for an inactive voter to be completely removed from the rolls. Those who become inactive voters can reactivate their status by filling out a new voter registration card with a form of identification accepted by the state, the same as others who register on Election Day. Information on same-day registration in Connecticut is available at WSHU’s 2020 Voter Guide.

Despite the drop, DeCarlo said new voter registrations have been coming in steadily in the run-up to the election. He expects that by Election Day the city will have about 56,000 active registered voters. Data from the Secretary of the State was supplied for up to Oct. 7, 2020.

Democrats and unaffiliated voters saw their numbers increase by about 3% each, while Republican registrations have increased by less than half a percentage point.

Democrats saw many of their gains along the western and southern parts of the state.

Republican increases came more from the eastern and central parts of the state, with heavy percentage-wise losses along the coast and New York border.

Unaffiliated voters grew fastest in the Hartford area and New York City suburbs.

Some municipalities, including Norwalk and Bridgeport, saw significant increases in their active voter rolls. In Norwalk, which led the state with a more than 15% increase in active registered voters, Registrar of Voters Stuart Wells III said he has been extremely busy with preparations for the election.

Wells, like the rest of those interviewed, did not make predictions of the outcome of the election, but was preparing for a busy Election Day.

“Just for this election I have bought over 1,000 KN95 masks and 1,200 surgical masks for my poll workers along with 60 table shields, 150 face shields and 300 bottles of hand sanitizer,” Wells wrote. “We are still boxing and bagging all the supplies we are sending to the polls along with visual instruction sheets to show how the table shields, signage, etc. is assembled.”