CT Voter Turnout Appears Highest for a Gubernatorial Race Since 1990

In the early 1990’s, voter turnout in Connecticut’s gubernatorial elections reached 68.2 percent in 1990 and 65.1 percent in 1994.  Turnout hasn’t reached that high level in the state’s quadrennial gubernatorial elections since – until Tuesday. The Office of Secretary of the State is reporting, as of Wednesday night, that statewide voter turnout was 66.9 percent.  If that turnout percentage stands, it would be the highest turnout in a race for Governor in nearly three decades, since 1990.

The strong turnout percentage this year is underscored by the fact that the number of registered voters is considerably larger.  As of Nov. 2 – not including those individuals who registered and voted on Election Day – the number of registered voters in Connecticut was 2,165,045, according to the Office of Secretary of the State.  Back in the ‘90’s, the list of registered voters hovered between 1.7 million and 1.8 million.  This year’s election brought a higher percentage of voters to the polls from a larger list of individuals registered to vote.

Voter turnout – the percentage of registered voters who actually vote – was 56.6 in 1998, 56.5 in 2002 when there were 1.8 million registered voters, and 59.8 in 2006 when the voter rolls reached 1.9 million.

The 1990 race featured well-known, high profile candidates for Governor – former U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, Congressman Bruce Morrison and Congressman John Rowland.  The race was won by Weicker, running as a third party candidate.  Rowland would go on to win the office four years later, when voter turnout was somewhat lower.

In 2006, when the Connecticut voters considered their choices in a gubernatorial match-up between Gov. Jodi Rell and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, a U.S. Senate race that featured Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democratic candidate Ned Lamont and republican Alan Schlessinger was also on the ballot drawing considerable interest.  Turnout that year reached 59.8 percent.

In 2010, Democrat Dannel Malloy won his first term as Governor, defeating Republican Tom Foley by the relatively narrow margin of 6,404 votes.  A third party candidate, Tom Marsh, received 17,629 votes.   Voter turnout that year was 57.4 percent.

Voter turnout is consistently higher in presidential election years.  In 2016, for the Donald Trump – Hillary Clinton contest, the voter turnout in Connecticut was 76.9 percent.  It had been slightly higher in 2008, when Barack Obama was on the ballot here for the first time, at 78.1 percent.

The number of people registered to vote also tends to surge in presidential election years.  In 2016 in Connecticut, the voter list included 2.1 million residents.  This year’s voter registration numbers, just prior to Election Day, were closing in on that total.

This story was updated at midnight Wednesday to reflect latest turnout percentage provided by the Office of Secretary of the State, which increased slightly throughout the day as additional information was provided by municipalities.

Connecticut Ranks 10th in U.S. in Percentage of Latinos Among Eligible Voters

Connecticut, with 10.8 percent of eligible voters of Latino heritage, ranks 10th among the states in the percentage of eligible Latino voters.  In 16 states, more than half of the Latino population is eligible to vote, including Connecticut which ranks 13th with 51.8 percent of the Latino population eligible to vote in the November elections. Those states include Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, New Mexico, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and South Dakota, with percentages ranging from 61.9 percent to 51.9 percent. latino vote

A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2016 elections, which will include legislative and Congressional elections, United States Senator and President/Vice President.  The Hispanic population in Connecticut is the 18th largest in the nation. About 540,000 Hispanics reside in Connecticut, 1 percent of all Hispanics in the United States, according to data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center.  In other key data:

  • Connecticut’s population is 15 percent Hispanic, the 11th largest Hispanic statewide population share nationally.
  • There are 280,000 Hispanic eligible voters in Connecticut—the 15th largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population nationally. California ranks first with 6.9 million.
  • Some 11 percent of Connecticut eligible voters are Hispanic, the 10th largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter share nationally. New Mexico ranks first with 40%.
  • Some 52 percent of Hispanics in Connecticut are eligible to vote, ranking Connecticut 13th nationwide in the share of the Hispanic population that is eligible to vote. By contrast, about eight-in-ten (79 percent) of the state’s white population is eligible to vote.

mapThe states with the largest Latino population are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia and North Carolina.  With the smallest Latino populations are two New England states – Maine and Vermont – along with North and South Dakota and West Virginia.  Another New England state, New Hampshire, is among the ten states with the smallest Latino population.

Among Connecticut’s Congressional Districts, the share of eligible voters who are Latino range from 6.4 percent in the 2nd C.D. in Eastern Connecticut, to 12.9 percent in Western Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.  The percentages in the Connecticut’s other districts are 10.2% in the 3rd C.D. (Greater New Haven), 11.8% in the 4th C.D. (mostly Fairfield County) and 12.8% in the 1st C.D. (Greater Hartford).

All demographic data are based on Pew Research Center tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.

Building Character in Children Can Improve Voter Participation As Adults, Study Finds

As primary voters head to the polls in nearly two dozen Connecticut communities, with relatively low turnout anticipated, a newly released academic study on connections between childhood character-building and adult voting participation is gaining some notice. A researcher at Duke University has found that data from years of national surveys of youth reveal “a strong relationship” between measures of character in youth and the subsequent likelihood of voting, even controlling for test scores and demographics.vote

The study appears to have identified a causal relationship: Disadvantaged elementary-school children around the country who were randomly assigned to receive character-building education two decades ago were more likely to vote as adults by 11 to 14 percentage points.

The research paper, by John B. Holbein of Duke University, is entitled “Childhood Non-Cognitive Skill Development and Adult Political Participation.” Matching participants to voter files, Holbein found that childhood intervention had a large long-run impact on political participation.”  Non-cognitive factors were seen as at least as critical as cognitive factors – and perhaps more influential on voting behavior later in life.

The results of the study “suggest a refocusing of civics education.”  The study, published on the Social Science Research Network, concludes that “specific programs that schools implement—including those targeting psychosocial skills—appear to have a large impact on civic participation later on. This finding has important policy implications.”character

In the last midterm election, in 2014, only 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot nationwide, the lowest turnout since 1942. To understand the causes of low turnout, the Census Bureau regularly asks citizens why they chose not to exercise their constitutional right, Jonah Lehrer points out on his website, summarizing that “the number one reason is always the same: ‘too busy.’ (That was the reason given by 28 percent of non-voters in 2014.) The second most popular excuse is ‘not interested,’ followed by a series of other obstacles, such as forgetting about the election or not liking any of the candidates.”

The Holbein study suggests there is more behind the lack of voting behavior than those oft-cited reasons would suggest.

Critical factors in character building are self-regulation and those involving social skills.  Components of self-regulation include, but are not limited to, grit or perseverance, emotion recognition and emotion regulation—the ability to understand and control individual affect; and inhibition, or the ability to avoid negative behavior and exhibit positive behavior.  Social skills involve the ability to work with others productively; components include the ability to communicate, build friendships, and solve group-based problems.ssrn

“Rather than focusing exclusively on the number of years a citizen spends in school, it is important to consider what context they were exposed to while in school… In a landscape of stagnant macro-level trends in participation and small estimates for many adult mobilization efforts, this finding should give scholars and policymakers renewed hope,” according to the study.

The research indicated that “interventions in early life can have large and long-lasting impacts on stubbornly low rates of political participation in adulthood. This finding suggests a reorientation of political socialization studies towards early childhood; a previously neglected critical period in the development of participatory predispositions.”  Similar research into the impact of non-cognitive learning has come away with consistent findings.

Looking ahead, the study suggests that “expanding our view in this way will help expand our understanding of why some people vote, while others do not, and how to design reforms to increase turnout, particularly among individuals with a low propensity to vote.”

Local Election Officials Less Responsive If They Think You’re Latino, Study Finds

The answers vary, depending who is believed to be asking.  In an academic study, researchers have found that individuals thought to be Latino by local election officials receive less responsive and accurate answers to basic questions seeking information about voting.  It is described as the first large-scale field experiment investigating bureaucratic behavior that provides “causal evidence of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race by election officials.” The authors, Ariel R. White, Noah L. Nathan and Julie K. Faller, Ph.D. candidates at Harvard University, have published the results of their 2012 study, “What Do I Need to Vote? Bureaucratic Discretion and Discrimination by Local Election Officials,” in the February 2015 issues of American Political Science Review.  The graduate students contacted more than 7,000 elections officials in 48 states (Maine and Alaska were not included) – and asked two questions via email of the people who are responsible for both implementing voter-ID laws in many states and providing election-related information to voters.study

“We find that officials provide different information to potential voters of different putative ethnicities,” the authors explained.  “Emails sent from Latino aliases are significantly less likely to receive any response from local election officials than non-Latino white aliases and receive responses of lower quality. This raises concerns about the effect of voter ID laws on access to the franchise and about bias in the provision of services by local bureaucrats more generally.”

The field study, in which fundamental voting-related questions were emailed to election officials, was designed to “isolate the effect of ethnicity on real-world performance” of election officials.  It indicates that the officials are less likely to respond to informational inquiries from individuals thought to be Latino.  Emails from Latino names are roughly five percentage points less likely to receive a reply to a question about voter ID requirements than those from non-Latino whites, the Boston Globe reported.

The experiment was designed to determine if “street-level bureaucrats discriminate in the services they provide to constituents.”  The results provide “strong evidence” that they do.  The study concluded that “the responses that Latino emailers received to voter ID questions were less likely to be accurate and were more likely to be non-informative.”  The results “suggest that bias from street-level bureaucrats can occur even when there are not clear strategic reasons for officials to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity.”amerian political science review

The study, just prior to the 2012 election, also indicated that “we find no evidence that whether local officials are elected or appointed, partisan or nonpartisan, or members of specific political parties influences the extent of bias.”

Significantly, given recent court decisions that have rolled back oversight of elections in certain jurisdictions around the country, the study authors indicate that “consistent with the claim that enhanced monitoring reduces discrimination, we find no evidence of bias against Latinos in jurisdictions subject to federal regulation under the Voting Rights Act.”

“These findings have important implications for debates about voter ID laws, and indeed for any changes to voting requirements or election administration,” the authors emphasize in the study’s conclusion.  “Our results indicate that changes to existing voting regulations are likely to differentially increase information costs for Latino voters because public officials are less responsive to their requests for information.”

The 14-page study report also suggests that:

  • There is “some evidence that officials respond at lower rates to Latinos, even when asked a question”
  • “Public officials can be biased even in exceptionally low cost interactions” such as when only a single word answer (“No”) is necessary
  • “If minority voters are less able to acquire information about ID requirements and more likely to be asked for ID at the polls, this could manifest in lower voting rates. This may be greatest where officials are not monitored to prevent discrimination.”

The researchers suggest that future research could “expand the use of experimental methods to examine the presence of bias in service delivery in many other aspects of local administration in the United States” – from” trash collection and snow plowing to the management of welfare offices.”  They raise the question as to whether “similar ethnic or racial biases may affect the quality of services delivered in these other arenas.”



Pilot Project Boosts Voter Engagement in Latino Community

It turns out, all that was necessary to improve voter engagement and turnout was asking – and repeated, substantive, and informative reminders.  The results of a pilot study in Hartford’s Latino community may provide critical insight into how to improve voting levels in the state’s ethnic or urban communities, as the next election season beckons.

In 2012-13, the Hartford Votes~Hartford Vota Coalition conducted a Latino Voter Engagement Initiative with the support of a grant obtained by Hartford Public Library, a founding member of the Coalition.  The goal of the initiative was to increase historically low voter engagement in Hartford’s Latino community.  It did.

The initiative includevoted traditional voter registration activities, but because voter registration by itself tends not to result in higher voter engagement, additional activities were also included in the initiative.  Among them:  candidate forums, public programs on relevant topics, production and distribution of publications such as voter guides, canvassing portions of Hartford neighborhoods, conducting a reminder to vote campaign, and civics classes in Hartford high schools.

In addition, a number of meetings were held with leaders and others from Hartford’s Latino community.  None of the conversations or interactions were partisan.  They focused exclusively on the electoral process, the importance of exercising the right to vote, and providing basic information about public issues.  The results of the initiative were impressive:

  • Voter Registration:  392 Hartford Latinos were registered to vote.
  • Voter Information: 174 Hartford Latinos attended three candidate forums and two public programs.  Three publications were produced (Hartford Voters Guide, Citizens Guide, and Guide to the Hartford Board of Education) in English and Spanish and over 4,000 copies were distributed.
  • Voter Education: 124 Hartford Latinos participated in the neighborhood canvass; 172 Hartford Latino high school students attended civics classes.

According to a sample survey conducted at the end of the project, 44 percent of Hartford Latinos with whom program organizers interacted reported an increase in their voter engagement.  For example, they registered to vote, they voted, or they attended a candidate forum or public program related to major public issues during the project period.

Project organizers concluded that “we identified and demonstrated a successful strategy that can help address the very complex problem of low voter engagement (among Latinos 1_Percentage_Increaseand others):  people vote and get involved in greater numbers when they are encouraged to do so through face-to-face contact, and multiple contacts are more effective than single contacts.”

The neighborhood canvass produced especially notable results:

  • 54 percent of Latinos who were inactive voters (i.e., they had never voted before or were registered but had not voted in the 2008 and/or the 2010 elections) who participated in the neighborhood canvass reported that they voted in 2012 as a result of the interaction.
  • 64 percent of all Latinos who participated in the neighborhood canvass reported that they voted in 2012 as a result of the interaction.
  • Those who were spoken with twice voted at a rate 21 percent higher than those that only had one interaction
  • 2012 voter turnout among all people included in the neighborhood canvass was 9.1 percent higher than overall turnout in voting districts in which an informational canvass was conducted, and 6.7 percent higher than turnout citywide.

 In addition, thirteen high school civics classes were conducted in four different Hartford schools in May and June 2013, which were attended by 172 Latino students. According to evaluation forms completed by most of the students, 91 percent said the class helped them understand more about civics and 82 percent said they were more likely to vote or take action in their community as a result of having taken the class.  Comments ranged from “I made my voice heard through my vote” to “I didn’t do it for politics but because people motivated me.”

 The Hartford experience has been corroborated by similar research in Detroit and Arizona, according to project organizers.  The Coalition’s goal in 2014 is to secure resources that will enable it to ramp up the successful strategies identified through the pilot project and as a result have greater impact.

“Through these strategies,” they suggest, “we can play a significant role in reducing the effects of low voter engagement, which is a major threat to our democracy.”

Middletown, Bridgewater, Granby, Stamford Top Turnout List in 2012 Elections

In a presidential election year, high voter turnout is possible – it’s just not easy. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has presented the 2012 “Democracy Cup” for the highest voter turnout percentage in the 2012 Presidential election in Connecticut to the town of Bridgewater (94.75%) and the city of Middletown (89.86%).   Overall, statewide voter turnout was 74%, slightly less than the last Presidential election turnout of 78.14% in 2008, in what may have been a result of difficulties in transportation and communication due to power outages and downed tree limbs from Hurricane Sandy.

The award is given annually to the small, mid-sized, large towns and city with the highest voter turnout on Election Day. The other winners of thSOTSe 2012 Democracy Cup for voter turnout are Granby (86.22%) and Stamford (71.6%).

Under Democracy Cup criteria, towns with fewer than 5,000 registered voters are considered small; municipalities with between 5,000 and 14,999 and voters are considered mid-sized, towns with 15,000 and 49,999 registered voters are considered large towns. Cities with more than 50,000 registered voters are their own category.

Each community awarded the Democracy Cup will be able to host and display a trophy through next year’s November elections. Trophy presentations were held for Middletown, Bridgewater, Stamford and Granby.

“The voters in Bridgewater, Middletown and the other communities who win the award this year really set an example for all of the voters in Connecticut of why elections and participating in democracy are important. I congratulate both Bridgewater and Middletown for doing such a wonderful job with 9 out of 10 registered voters participating in the 2012 election – it is some of the highest voter turnout in the nation!” Co-sponsored by the East Haddam Civic Association since 2000, the Democracy Cup was created as a way to encourage voter participation in each year’s elections. Merrill said Connecticut was seventh in the nation in voter turnout. Traditionally, she told the Middletown Press, Connecticut has placed 20th. “One week before a major storm, 100 of our 730 polling places were out of commission, so it took a lot of work by a lot of people to get us back online,” Merrill said.

Nonprofit Organizations Help Boost Voter Numbers, Study Finds

If one concurs with the adage that all politics is local, it should come as no surprise that the dust has barely settled on the state and national elections of 2012 as the focus shifts to the municipal–level elections of 2013. A Massachusetts-based organization devoted to increasing the role of nonprofit organizations in spurring voter interest and participation is already publicizing its “Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies,” available for web download, coming off what it describes as the success of 2012.

The benchmark National Election Exit Poll showed that the lower income, younger, and diverse populations typically served by nonprofits accounted for a greater share of voter turnout than ever before. While some of this can be attributed to population increases, it was also aided by unprecedented voter education and engagement efforts from the nonprofit and civic sector, according to the organization reported.

“Nonprofits are among the nation’s most trusted messengers. An annual Harris poll consistently ranks nonprofits among the few sectors (small businesses are another) that respondents would like to have more rather than less influ­ence in government.”  That observation published in The Nonprofit Quarterly, from George Pillsbury, MPA, founder and executive direc­tor of Nonprofit VOTE, underscores the organization’s initiative.

He adds:  “Nonprofits of the 501(c)(3) variety are pre­sumed to have a limited capacity for promoting political participation because laws prohibit them from engaging in partisan politics to support or oppose a candidate for public office. Yet nonprof­its’ inherent civic engagement assets make them a potent force for political and electoral engage­ment, further strengthened by their nonpartisan approach.”

Organizations including the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits — a long-time partner of Nonprofit VOTE — have led this transition in recent years by bringing voter engagement into the sector mainstream. According to the organization’s newsletter, for the 2012 election they pointed a spotlight on the sector by sending educational materials on the needs of nonprofits to all state candidates.

“Elected officials pay attention to which communities and which populations turn out and are generally more responsive to organizations involved in registering voters and encouraging turnout,” emphasized Sophie Lehman, Communications Director for Nonprofit VOTE.

The National Election Exit Poll is the most relied on exit poll conducted by Edison Research on behalf of ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News.