Connecticut primary pulled just 20 percent of voters

Aug 18, 2014

In Connecticut's statewide Republican primary last week, just 20 percent of eligible voters in Connecticut showed up at the polls. The overall low turnout raises some questions about what could be done differently.

The lowest turnout was in Beacon Falls, with just four percent of registered Republicans voting. Among the other lowest turnouts are just over 5 percent of eligible Stratford voters, 10.5 percent in Ridgefield, 11 in Wilton and not quite 12 and a half in New Canaan. Things were a little better in Stamford, but the city’s Republican registrar of voters, Lucy Corelli, says one polling place got just 3 voters. Corelli estimates it costs the city about $3,500 to keep a polling place open. And while they have consolidated some voting district, there’s a concern that making people travel more might depress turnout even more.

“August is a very bad time to hold a primary, because people are away, and they’re just busy with their lives," Corelli said. "They’re not concerned about the primary.”

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says the August primary date was a compromise by lawmakers.

“It was felt that September just didn’t give people enough time to recoup and then run for office in the general elections. And then there were people that wanted it in May or June.”

And she says some thought that wouldn’t give lawmakers enough time to get ready for a primary.

Political scientist Ron Schurin of UConn says things aren’t likely to change soon.

“The rule of thumb is generally that elected officials don’t want to change things because they got in by the existing rules."

But Schurin says other states have made changes, like Oregon, where most people vote by mail. Merrill says another change that could boost turnout is for parties to open up their primaries so unaffiliated voters could participate. In Connecticut, there are more unaffiliated voters than there are in either party.