In West Hartford, Republicans and Democrats were voting Aug. 9 for candidates for two statewide seats. [Updated, 7 p.m.]
By Ronni Newton
Voting is often brisk in West Hartford – where the town has won the state’s Democracy Cup for its high voter turnout on multiple occasions – but polling places were quiet on a steamy Tuesday morning as registered Democrats and Republicans cast ballots to choose their party’s candidate in two different statewide races.
Just after 10 a.m., four hours after polls had opened, just 117 people had voted at Conard High School.
State Rep. Tammy. Exum, who voted at Sedgwick Middle School around 9 a.m., said she was voter no. 154 there.
“People were not in tune with this primary,” said Carole Mulready, the moderator at Conard.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz visited Conard on Tuesday morning to greet voters, and said when she voted in Middletown at 8:30 a.m., she was voter no. 23 at her polling place.
“I hope it’s going to be higher than the 15-20% prediction I heard,” said Bysiewicz, who was Connecticut’s secretary of the state prior to becoming lieutenant governor. In some of the towns where the “down ballot” contests have drawn interest such as where there are races for probate judges, state representatives, and the Democratic Registrar of Voters in Bloomfield, turnout will likely be stronger.
Mulready and Bysiewicz both believe it would be better to hold the primary in June or September, rather than in August when more people are on vacation and it tends to be hotter.
Tuesday’s election was the first one impacted by statewide redistricting, prompted by the results of the 2020 census. The number and location of many of West Hartford’s polling places has changed.
Mulready said during the first two hours of voting, it seemed as if about half of the people who showed up to vote there were in the wrong place.
Republican Registrar of Voters Beth Kyle said there hadn’t been reported complaints about people not knowing where to vote, but the Registrars Office was fielding calls asking where to vote. There has been some confusion among people arriving at polling places and not knowing which party they are registered with – and if it’s not Republican or Democrat, they aren’t eligible to vote in the primary.
Pink postcards were sent to all voters – regardless of party registration – in July, indicating the assigned polling place. “We will send out another mailing before the November election,” Kyle said.
At Wolcott and Braeburn elementary schools, which are no longer polling places, there are signs with QR codes linked to the Secretary of the State’s voter registration lookup site. The phone number of the West Hartford Registrar of Voters Office is also posted on the signs to assist with any questions.
By noon the temperature in West Hartford was in the mid-90s, with a heat index topping 100 degrees. Bugbee Elementary School, the town’s newest polling place, does not have air conditioning, and Kyle said while voters were only inside for a few minutes, it was very hot for the poll workers. There were fans in place and the Registrar’s Office was making sure they had plenty of cold water.
At King Philip Middle School, voting was moved in the late afternoon from the original spaces to rooms that were air conditioned.
Gov. Ned Lamont stopped by Sedgwick Middle School around 3:30 p.m. to greet voters. “This is the voting capital of America,” he joking, referencing West Hartford’s traditional high turnout.
The governor would not make any predictions about who he thought might with any of the races, but said he thought that “anyone who gets out the vote is going to win.”
He said that when he voted this morning at Greenwich Library around 7:30 a.m., the only voters were him and his wife, Annie. Like Bysiewicz, he thinks changing the date of Connecticut’s primary would help with turnout, and said September might be best.
At 4:10 p.m., Sedgwick Middle School’s moderator said 577 people had voted.
Details about West Hartford’s final turnout, including absentee ballot results, will be available later Tuesday. The polls will remain open until 8 p.m.
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