What will it take before a majority of Connecticut voters demand remedies to low voter turnout such as happened Nov. 3?
Low turnout was the story around the state. But Bridgeport’s election was our wake up call.
Less than a third of Bridgeport’s 61,382 registered voters went to the polls in a controversial and highly publicized race for mayor. This race got more than local — it got national — headlines because three of the candidates, including the victor, asked for a “second chance” despite criminal records.
The morning after the election, the Connecticut Post editorial called Fairfield County voters “disinterested!”
Even in Greenwich, the editorial stated, only 33.7 percent of voters participated in the election of its first selectman.
In Hartford, a city of 120,000, only 10,000 votes put Luke Bronin in the mayor’s office.
In Danbury (where no top office was at stake) 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots for under-ticket races. In Waterbury 21 percent voted Nov. 3, according to the registrar of voters there. The New London Day reported 23 percent voted in that city’s mayoral election.
Yes, municipal elections in odd years have a history of low turnout, but can’t we take steps to change this?
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut has worked tirelessly to boost interest in voting, yet the trend is down. A year ago we joined with other organizations across the state to start a conversation about considering more flexible voting methods not currently permitted by the State Constitution.
The effort went nowhere.
We note that currently some national organizations are calling for a change to weekend instead of Tuesday voting. At least one candidate running for president in 2016 is suggesting universal registration for age 18 and up.
There’s hardly an area in the state where the League has not held candidate forums, printed voter guides and registered voters. Yet many voters stay home on Election Day.
Something must be done to energize the voting process. Even in presidential election years like 2016, more voters, especially young adults, must believe that their votes count.
I speak on behalf of the entire League of Women Voters of Connecticut in issuing this challenge:
We call on political parties, the Secretary of the State, legislators, civics and political science educators, civic and cultural organizations and all other concerned parties to join in making 2016 a year when specific steps are taken to address this issue.
If you agree with our challenge, turn to the League when citizens, teachers and journalists want a factual voting resource based on studies of our state’s primary system, on various options regarding methods of voting used in other states, and most recently on voter fraud/voter suppression matters both local and national.
Gloria Bent is president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.