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How To Turn Up Voter Turnout

An Earlier Primary - And two other reforms should boost interest in elections

Hartford Courant Editorial

September 14, 2010

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, in a recent op-ed in The Courant, lamented the low turnout in the Aug. 10 statewide primaries and proposed three solutions to boost voter interest in not only primaries but all elections.

Ms. Bysiewicz is right. The Aug. 10 turnout even with some competitive contests between strong candidates was sickly. Fewer than one in four Democrats reported to the polls, and fewer than one in three Republicans voted.

She suggests the election calendar be changed to make the primary in June, "while children are still in school and parents are more tuned in to news and public affairs before we all go into summer vacation mode." A June primary makes sense as long as the party conventions whose main business is to endorse candidates are moved back in the calendar as well to, say, March. Keeping the conventions in late May and moving the primary elections to the first half of June would give party-endorsed candidates an even greater advantage than they now have.

The secretary of the state's other two ideas are so-called "no-excuse" absentee balloting and Election Day registration. Both of those have resulted in increased voter turnout in states that have adopted them.

No-excuse absentee balloting is a form of early voting. It should work in Connecticut so long as political operatives are prohibited from distributing absentee ballot applications and strong-arming vulnerable residents the elderly or incapacitated, for example into voting for the operatives' choices.

Absentee balloting has been used by unscrupulous politicians as an illegal vote-grabbing racket for years, especially in Hartford. Safeguards would have to be built into the system if it is expanded.

The reforms advocated by Ms. Bysiewicz are worth instituting. They should be put before the General Assembly and the political parties next year.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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