Sign of the times Record election turnout for Westport
WESTPORT — Election turnout this year was the highest for a gubernatorial year in over a decade.
“We were almost exactly halfway between the last presidential and gubernatorial (election),” Marla Cowden, one of Westport’s two Registrars of Voters, said of the 75.61 percent turnout in town this year.
The Nov. 6 turnout was considerably higher than the 61.60 percent of registered voters who came out in 2014, the previous gubernatorial election year, and also the 64.80 percent who voted in 2010, the last time an incumbent was not up for re-election as governor in Connecticut.
The last time turnout for a gubernatorial or mid-term year came close to this year’s was in 2006, when 72.69 percent of registered voters came out to the polls.
Turnout, however, was expectantly lower than at least the last three presidential election years, which saw 85.89 percent, 83 percent and 86.05 percent turnout for 2016, 2012 and 2008, respectively.
The registrars ordered enough ballots this year to meet presidential turnout because the high number of people, especially Democrats, who registered and/or requested absentee ballots in September and October led them to expect higher turnout than most gubernatorial election years, Cowden said.
In total, 338 residents registered as Democrats since the August primary while 56 Westporters registered Republican in that same time frame. Westport has more Democrats than Republicans, with 7,187 voters registered for the former party and 4,446 in the later.
In addition to being the majority party in town, the Democrats also voted at a higher rate than Republicans this year; 82 percent of town’s registered Democrats voted compared to the 78 percent of Westport’s registered Republicans who went to the polls.
“The registrations were going crazy for the last month. It wasn’t just voters that said I need to vote. These are voters that needed to first become a registered voter and then vote. It drew new people, new voters to the polls, I believe,” Town Clerk Patty Strauss said.
Many more people, 1,956 to be exact, voted through absentee ballots this year than in past gubernatorial election years. In 2014, 798 Westporters voted with absentee ballots and in 2010, the number was a bit higher, at 1,125, but still below this year’s number of people who voted with absentee ballots.
“I think voter turnout was a combination of grassroots organization and discontent with what happened in 2016,” Gail Berritt, a Westport resident and leader of the Indivisible Electioneers, which worked to increase voter turnout in support of progressive candidates, said.
Candidates like Democrat Will Haskell, who won the 26th state senate seat in a surprising upset over incumbent Toni Boucher, knocked on countless doors and were in touch with what bothered residents, Berritt said.
“It was all because he and other people knocked on doors and got people out to vote and convinced them to change their vote,” Berritt said of Haskell’s victory.
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