In an effort to elevate voter participation late in the game, the City Clerk’s Office opened its doors to New Haven residents this past Saturday to allow voters to cast absentee ballots.
With the office open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Town Chair of the Democratic Party Vincent Mauro said that a “steady stream” of voters cast their absentee ballots. The option was only available to New Haven residents who would be out of the city from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. On Question 1 on this year’s ballot, Connecticut voters will decide whether or not such an early voting option should be available to all state residents eligible to vote.
“We’re in a day and age when some people are working six or seven days a week,” Mauro said, “and the ability to vote on a weekend just allows more people to participate in the process.”
Mauro cited Georgia as an example of a state that recognized this problem and, after enabling early voting, has since experienced success in motivating a greater percentage of its citizens to vote.
Extending hours is an important function the city government plays in encouraging citizens to exercise their right to vote, Mauro said.
“The mayor and [City Clerk Michael Smart] were eager to give every New Haven resident the opportunity to participate in the process,” said Laurence Grotheer, director of communications for Mayor Toni Harp. “The additional hours accommodated those who had still not been able to make plans to vote.”
The City Clerk’s Office has also created an election page on their website with specific information about absentee voting and absentee ballot applications, and answers to general questions about the election.
City officials said they wanted to ensure voters could also use Saturday to obtain more information about the election ballot. But Mauro said that because the questions on the ballot this year are more straightforward than in years past, most residents who took advantage of the extended hours came primarily to vote instead of to pose questions.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, elections coordinator for the Yale College Democrats and a staff columnist for the News, said the extended hours highlighted the importance of Question 1 on the ballot.
The City Clerk’s Office would not have to open on Saturday to give residents who will be out of town on Tuesday the chance to note if the state amended its constitution to allow early voting, Blackmon said.
“[The extended hours] are, of course, important,” he said. “But early voting in Connecticut could be a more permanent solution.”
Blackmon added that he did not think any Yale student voters had been affected by the extended office hours, as very few Yale students who planned on voting would be out of the city during voting hours on Tuesday.
Voters who chose to cast absentee ballots this election season featured out-of-state college students, including Maggie Peard, a New Haven resident and sophomore at Williams College.
“I’m choosing to vote absentee in Connecticut because, even though I spend more of my time in Massachusetts, I want my vote to go towards electing the best representative for me in Connecticut because I still feel more like a resident of Connecticut,” Peard said.
Peard added that she believes voting made it easy for her to participate in the election process in Connecticut and was especially important for out-of-state college students like her who prefer to vote in their home states.
The voter registration deadline for this year’s election was Oct. 28.