Youth-voter reg­is­tra­tion rises

All age groups surge in state, but up most among fickle young

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ana Rade­lat

“I feel like I’ve been wait­ing all my life for young peo­ple to turn out, and now they have.” Con­necti­cut Sec­re­tary of the State Denise Mer­rill

Fol­low­ing a na­tional trend, voter reg­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to soar in Con­necti­cut, es­pe­cially among young peo­ple, who tra­di­tion­ally have weak par­tic­i­pa­tion in elec­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the Con­necti­cut Sec­re­tary of the State’s of­fice, from the 2016 elec­tion through the end of Septem­ber, 103,436 new vot­ers reg­is­tered as Democrats, com­pared with 53,371 who reg­is­tered as Repub­li­cans.

But many more Con­necti­cut res­i­dents — 168,090 — reg­is­tered as un­af­fil­i­ated.

Al­though voter reg­is­tra­tion in Con­necti­cut has surged for all age groups, the big­gest in­crease is among vot­ers ages 18 to 25.

In the last midterm cy­cle, as of Oct. 10, 2014, only 7,960 Con­necti­cut res­i­dents in that age bracket had reg­is­tered to vote. As of Oct. 10 of this year, 51,659 young vot­ers had reg­is­tered.

“It’s tremen­dous,” said Con­necti­cut Sec­re­tary of the State Denise Mer­rill. “I feel like I’ve been wait­ing all my life for young peo­ple to turn out, and now they have.”

More of those young peo­ple reg­is­tered as Democrats (16,797) than Repub­li­cans (6,596). But more than half — 28,566 — of those new young vot­ers reg­is­tered as un­af­fil­i­ated.

The in­crease in voter reg­is­tra­tion across the board is sig­nif­i­cant, an­a­lysts said. Since there’s no pres­i­den­tial con­test in a midterm elec­tion, the num­ber of those sign­ing up to vote in those cy­cles is usu­ally de­pressed. That trend has been bro­ken in Con­necti­cut and else­where across the na­tion.

Com­pared with the same pe­riod in the last midterm elec­tion, new Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can voter reg­is­tra­tions in Con­necti­cut more than dou­bled — and un­af­fil­i­ated voter reg­is­tra­tion tripled.

“Just in Septem­ber, we had more than 20,000 reg­is­tra­tions,” said Mer­rill.

Voter reg­is­tra­tion in Con­necti­cut ends Oct. 30 and en­roll­ment usu­ally surges as that dead­line draws near. This year is no dif­fer­ent, with the pace of reg­is­tra­tions ac­cel­er­at­ing even more since the be­gin­ning of the month. Con­necti­cut also has Elec­tion

Day reg­is­tra­tion for those who meet the el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments.

More than 5,600 new voter reg­is­tra­tions were pro­cessed in the first 10 days of the month, as the con­tro­versy over the con­fir­ma­tion of new Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh trans­fixed the na­tion and deep­ened its par­ti­san di­vide.

In those 10 days, 2,312 vot­ers reg­is­tered as Democrats, 1,202 reg­is­tered as Repub­li­cans and 2,153 as un­af­fil­i­ated.

Mer­rill at­trib­uted the in­crease of voter reg­is­tra­tions to sev­eral fac­tors. One is that Con­necti­cut res­i­dents can now sign up to vote at the Depart­ment of Mo­tor ve­hi­cles and on­line.

An in­crease in so­cial me­dia cam­paigns aimed at reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers is also help­ing in­crease reg­is­tra­tions, Mer­rill said, as is in­creased politi­ciza­tion of the na­tion since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump won the White House.

“The 2016 elec­tion seems to have gal­va­nized vot­ers,” Mer­rill said.

Con­necti­cut is one of 19 states where Democrats are ahead of Repub­li­cans in ac­tive reg­is­tered vot­ers. As of Oct. 10, there were 780,313 ac­tive Demo­cratic vot­ers reg­is­tered in Con­necti­cut, com­pared with 457,813 ac­tive reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans.

The num­ber of un­af­fil­i­ated ac­tive vot­ers, who usu­ally split their votes

be­tween party can­di­dates fairly evenly, was 862,466.

Al­though reg­is­tered Democrats in Con­necti­cut out­num­ber reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans, Democrats in the state turn out to vote “at a slightly lower per­cent­age” than GOP vot­ers, Mer­rill said.

The Con­necti­cut Sec­re­tary of the State de­fines ac­tive vot­ers as those who have voted in the last two fed­eral elec­tions. How­ever, Con­necti­cut res­i­dents are not re­moved from vot­ing rolls un­til they are on the in­ac­tive list for four years, so many “in­ac­tive” vot­ers can vote on Nov. 6.

The Tay­lor Swift fac­tor

Raven Brooks, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Vote.org, a na­tional voter reg­is­tra­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion, said na­tional voter reg­is­tra­tion by his group is at “record num­bers,” ex­ceed­ing reg­is­tra­tions in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion “and we are not even fin­ished with Oc­to­ber en­roll­ment yet.”

“We’re break­ing ev­ery record,” Brooks said.

He said 6,122 peo­ple in Con­necti­cut signed up to vote through Vote.org this year — 2,718 in Oc­to­ber alone.

Vote.org helps res­i­dents in states that al­low on­line reg­is­tra­tion by pro­vid­ing them with forms and in­struc­tions, and those in states that don’t al­low on­line vot­ing by pro­vid­ing them a PDF of a reg­is­tra­tion form they can fill in and mail to their reg­is­trars of vot­ers.

In some states, the or­ga­ni­za­tion faxes com­pleted forms to reg­is­trars.

Raven at­tributes the new in­ter­est in reg­is­ter­ing to vote this year to in­creased ac­tiv­ity by voter reg­is­tra­tion groups — and to celebri­ties like Tay­lor Swift, who have taken to so­cial me­dia to boost en­roll­ment, es­pe­cially among younger vot­ers.

“A lot of time, younger vot­ers don’t find out about elec­tions un­til much later than ev­ery­body else,” Raven said. “Then it’s of­ten too late to reg­is­ter to vote.”

Swift’s In­sta­gram post on Sun­day urged her 112 mil­lion fol­low­ers to reg­is­ter to vote on Vote.org and cat­a­pulted the gen­er­ally apo­lit­i­cal singer into the fray of Novem­ber’s midterms by en­dors­ing two Ten­nessee Democrats.

Raven said his group reg­is­tered 364,000 new vot­ers, mostly 18 to 25 years old, within two days of that In­sta­gram post.

Tyler Size­more / Hearst Conn. Me­dia file photo

Denise Mer­rill, sec­re­tary of the state of Con­necti­cut.

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