Tuesday night marked the official end of Connecticut’s most active voter registration period in years, and as the sun set near the New Haven registrar’s office on Orange St., more than 200 local residents and Yale students were still flocking to sign up for a chance to participate in one of the country’s most closely-watched elections.
As of 4 p.m., 49,370 voters had registered statewide since the Aug. 8 state primary, which saw a face-off between Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67. More than 82,000 new voters registered since May 1. According to figures provided by the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, about 9,000 of the new voters — approximately 11 percent of the new voters state-wide — come from the third Congressional district, which includes New Haven and parts of Fairfield and Middlesex counties. More than 2,000 of these new voters registered in the last week alone, and Dan Tapper, spokesman for the Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, said he expects the total number of new voters statewide to come close to or to exceed 50,000 once all registrations are tallied today.
“This will be the highest voter registration that we’ve had for a statewide election,” Tapper said.
Political student groups on campus this semester have emphasized registration efforts, and students involved said their attempts at getting out the vote have been met with enthusiasm, especially in other districts throughout Connecticut. Campus activists have been canvassing in recent weekends to try to to skew hotly contested congressional races in nearby districts in their party’s favor. Though New Haven itself has not been an epicenter of canvassing efforts, residents said there is still a considerable interest in voting this year, in part because longtime New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is hoping to occupy the governor’s mansion in Hartford soon.
Jose Ortiz, dressed in an orange T-shirt to celebrate Halloween, went to the Registrar’s Office on Tuesday afternoon, hours before the 8 p.m. registration deadline, to ensure his voting records were in order. He said although the Iraq war is an issue that has energized him and other constituents, he is “not basing the whole vote on that.”
“What I’m looking for is basically more openness,” Ortiz said, complaining that the Green Party candidate Cliff Thornton, whom he will vote for, was closed out of the gubernatorial debates. “That’s not a form of government as far as I’m concerned. Why can’t he participate? Why can’t he answer some of the questions?”
City resident Adam Roslon said a general feeling of being “fed up” with Connecticut politics inspired him to register. He said although he is a lifelong Republican, he will vote for Lamont because he does not want Lieberman in office.
“I really don’t feel comfortable with what Joe Lieberman’s doing for the state,” Roslon said. “I just feel he’s out of touch.”
As she left the registrar’s office, city resident Pamela Brantley said city residents have mixed feelings about DeStefano’s candidacy and want a change of the guard in the political sphere.
Though New Haven is a largely Democratic city — only one member of the Board of Aldermen is a Republican — Brantley said some residents are registering and voting to protest against DeStefano or to show their support for current governor M. Jodi Rell.
“I’m going to vote for Lamont, because we need some new, fresh blood in the air,” Brantley said. “DeStefano? He’s been mayor for a long time, but I have to say on the other hand that though I’m a Democrat, I do like the job that Rell’s been doing.”
Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield said he suspects the statewide increase in voter registration may not reflect local circumstances, since he did not receive a letter from the city listing new registrations as he normally does at this time.
On campus, Yale College Democrats and Yale College Republicans have focused primarily on congressional races rather than local voter registration. Still, Yale College Democrats President Brendan Gants ’08 said his organization registered 400 new voters in Connecticut this year.
But Yale College Republicans President Alex Yergin ’07 said that his organization has not pushed for registration on campus, nor has it seen many requests for registration forms. Kathryn Baldwin ’09, the organization’s director of recruiting, said she was surprised to see that many students register at home rather than in Connecticut.
Noah Kazis ’09, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and a coordinator of Democratic Party canvassing efforts, said now that Democratic canvassers will be boarding an 8:45 a.m. bus on Saturday morning to canvas in nearby congressional districts and will stay overnight there to continue on Sunday, he said.
“People are really excited about the election this year, which is great,” Kazis said. “The more people who are registered to vote, the more successful democracy is.”
As of Monday, the 3rd Congressional district had 382,436 registered voters, with 38 percent registered as Democrats, 17 percent registered as Republicans and the rest either unaffiliated or registered with a third party. According to a Zogby poll released on Tuesday, Lamont has narrowed Lieberman’s lead to 4 percent. But the most recent Quinnipiac poll, released on Oct. 20, showed Lieberman with a 17 point lead. According to all major statewide polls, DeStefano continues to trail Rell by double digits.
On Tuesday, the final day of registration, Helen Thomas of the New Haven Registrar’s office said that of the 222 residents who had registered to vote in New Haven, 104 were Democrats, 12 Republicans, 73 unaffiliated, and 2 were Green Party supporters.