Since President Donald Trump’s election, Connecticut has seen a rapid surge in both voter registration and turnout.
Approximately 275,000 people have registered to vote since the 2016 election, an unprecedented increase for the state in such a short period of time, according to Secretary of State Denise Merrill. At a Connecticut Democratic rally last week, Merrill touted the fact that the number of registered voters has nearly doubled in the 18–24 age bracket. Gary Rose, a political science professor at Sacred Heart University, attributed most of the spike to Trump’s election.
Rose said he believes that the surge of Democratic voters is largely the result of the backlash against Trump’s presidency, while the Republican surge is more a product of Trump energizing and mobilizing the base of his party. Pointing to Trump’s high approval ratings among members of his own party, Rose said that many Republicans think of Trump as someone who is “taking on this global economy.” In addition, Rose said, the slew of Republican candidates in the gubernatorial race contributed to the high turnout as voters were choosing between five candidates, an unusually large number for a statewide primary.
“I do think that the intensity that was present in the 2016 contest has in many ways continued unabated with the presidency of Donald Trump,” Rose said in an interview.
Asked why young voters have become more attracted to the political sphere, Rose said such voters are “more passionate about the issues” now than they have been for a long time. He pointed to the newly energized progressive movement, noting that issues such as Medicare for all and free college tuition attract many younger advocates.
Ananya Kumar-Banerjee ’21, communications director for the Yale College Democrats, said the surge in younger voters could also be attributed to social media.
“Growing up with activism permeating social media, it makes sense that young people would like want to act to influence change on the issues that they’ve been learning about and exposed to throughout their lives,” Kumar-Banerjee said in an email to the News.
But Trump is not the only reason for the surge. Both Rose and Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for the secretary of state, noted that it is much easier to register to vote now than it was four years ago.
Rosenberg said the secretary of state’s office has made voter registration much easier in the past three to four years. With new initiatives such as same-day and online voter registration, it is much simpler for Connecticut residents to sign up, according to Rose.
And the numbers do not lie.
Voter turnout in the August primaries was the highest it has been in a midterm primary in 12 years. Approximately 32 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats voted in August, according to statistics from the Secretary of State’s office. In 2014, 20 percent of Republicans voted, while there was no Democratic statewide primary, and in 2010, 30 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats voted.
Merrill has served as Connecticut secretary of state since 2011.
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