Voter Registration Sets Record; Record Balloting Predicted
By MARK SPENCER | The Hartford Courant
November 03, 2008
A record number of people in Connecticut have signed up to cast ballots in Tuesday's election, and a higher percentage of registered voters are expected to participate than at any time since John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off in the 1960 presidential election.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is predicting that 90 percent of the state's nearly 2.1 million registered voters will cast ballots Tuesday, compared with 79 percent in 2000 and 78 percent in 2004.
More than 300,000 new voters have registered since Jan. 1. October saw an astounding surge in registrations as the race between Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain heated up, with 134,500 signing on, including more than 18,000 last Tuesday , the last day to register for the election.
"The historic nature of the election is motivating people," said Bysiewicz, who is scheduled to release the new numbers at a press conference at 11 a.m. today.
A record number of absentee ballots also have been distributed, in some towns more than doubling the number in previous presidential elections.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Middletown Registrar of Voters Sandra L. Faraci.
The new voters are disproportionately young and, among those who indicate a party preference, Democratic.
Bysiewicz said 130,197 people between the ages of 18 and 29 have registered since Jan. 1. Of the 160,699 new voters of all ages who specified a party, they went Democratic by a ratio of more than 3-to-1.
Election officials are confident that enthusiasm for the election will not translate to chaos at the state's 769 polling places. From tiny one-precinct towns to the big cities, election officials have added workers to handle the crowds.
An additional 250 college-age students have been recruited to add some youthful stamina to the ranks of poll workers, who previously had an average age of 72.
This election will be the biggest test for the state's new optical scanner machines, which were first rolled out in all precincts in last year's municipal election, in which voter turnout was 40 percent.
To educate voters unfamiliar with the new system, election officials have run television and newspaper ads and mailed a guide to each voter's home.
The new machines should speed voting. With the old lever machines, only one person could use each machine at a time. Each precinct now has two scanners and up to dozens of privacy booths where voters fill out their paper ballots.
If a scanner malfunctions, the ballots can be dropped in a locked box. It would slow counting, but not voting, Bysiewicz said.
Information on voting, as well as the statewide and local referendum questions that will be on the ballot, is available at www.vote-ez-ct.com.
Officials think everything necessary has been done to avoid the sometimes hours-long wait at polling places in states that have early voting, but say no system is immune to problems.
"Voters appreciate that this is a historic and vitally important election," Bysiewicz said. "They're going to be willing to wait in line if they have to."
A breakdown of state voter registration numbers can be found at courant.com/voterreg.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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