Ariela Lopez, Contributing Photographer

The 2024 presidential election is set to be a rematch of incumbent President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump’s 2020 contest, but Connecticut voters still have a chance to make their voices heard in the state’s presidential primary on Tuesday.

Forty states and territories have already held presidential primaries, and Biden and Trump have each secured enough delegates to make them the presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Connecticut’s primary ballots each feature four candidate options and an “uncommitted” option — an opportunity seized by Democratic voters in primaries this spring to express dissatisfaction with Biden’s response to the war in Gaza.

Polls will be open on Tuesday across the city from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters that are not currently affiliated with a political party must enroll in the Democratic or Republican party by noon on Monday to be eligible to vote on Tuesday.

Democrats divided on Biden’s Gaza policy

On March 13, advocates launched the Vote Uncommitted CT campaign in Hartford, encouraging Democrats to use their vote to show their frustration with the president’s policies regarding the war in Gaza. 

An online Action Network form allowing Connecticut Democrats to pledge to vote “uncommitted” states that Vote Uncommitted CT is “a project of the Connecticut Palestine Solidarity Coalition’s Political Engagement Committee.” 

The coalition includes organizations such as Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America, Jewish Voices for Peace’s Action Committee, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Islamic Association of Central CT Impact Organization and CT Students 4 Palestine, among other groups.

Miranda Rector ’20 SPH ’22, a New Haven-based organizer for JVP Action and Vote Uncommitted CT, said that the campaign’s organizers have been reaching voters primarily through phone banking, text banking and canvassing. The organizers did not campaign by polling locations during early voting, but they plan to on primary day.

“The focus of the primary campaign is to send a message to the national Democratic Party, that Connecticut is usually a safe state, probably will still be a safe state, but there is a significant sizable base of the Democratic Party that is not willing to vote for Biden,” said Hamden Town Councilor Abdul Osmanu, who is involved with Vote Uncommitted CT and CT DSA.

According to Rector, Connecticut’s “uncommitted” campaign was inspired by the efforts in other states. In Michigan’s presidential primary in February, 101,623 Democrats — or 13.2 percent — voted “uncommitted,” winning two delegates.

Rector said that Vote Uncommitted CT’s statewide goal is 6,000 “uncommitted” votes. The number would represent around 2.3 percent of Democratic voters statewide if Democratic voter turnout reaches a similar level to Connecticut’s 2020 presidential primary.

However, Osmanu said he expects that fewer Democrats will vote this year due to the uncompetitive primary. He also anticipates that the percentage of voters voting “uncommitted” will be higher in cities and towns where there are already popular pro-Palestine movements, including New Haven.

“If there is over 15 or 20 percent in New Haven [voting “uncommitted”], I think that folks would be able to walk away proud,” Osmanu said.

According to the guidelines for Democratic delegate selection in Connecticut, delegates selected at the district level are allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary vote won in that district. A candidate — or “uncommitted” preference — will only be awarded delegates if it receives at least 15 percent of the district vote. At-large delegates are allocated to candidates or preferences that receive at least 15 percent of the statewide vote.

Republicans rally around Trump

Statewide Republican leadership has, so far, embraced Trump as their presumptive nominee.

State GOP Chair Ben Proto, who said that he believes Trump will prevail over Biden in November, attributed Trump’s popular support to the many lawsuits against the former president, which he believes resemble “political prosecution and political persecution.”

Lisa Milone, treasurer of the New Haven Republican Town Committee, said she thinks that many voters regardless of party feel unsatisfied with their choices this election season. Milone did not know of a coordinated effort for Connecticut Republicans to vote against Trump in the primary.

Connecticut Republican leadership did not respond to further requests for comment.

Although Trump won Connecticut’s last two Republican presidential primaries, his proportion of the vote was slightly lower in New Haven than statewide.

Trump won Connecticut’s 2020 Republican presidential primary with 78.4 percent of the vote. 14.2 percent of Republican voters voted for “uncommitted,” and 7.4 percent voted for candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente. In New Haven, 383 Republicans voted in the primary, and 291 — or 76 percent — voted for Trump.

In 2016, the primary was held before candidates John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz withdrew from the race. Trump won the state primary with 57.9 percent of the vote. But out of the 1,121 New Haveners that cast ballots, only 509 — or 45.4 percent — voted for Trump.

Early voting has little engagement 

Municipalities across Connecticut introduced early voting for the primary after the Connecticut state legislature approved an in-person early voting program in 2023. New Haveners voted early last week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 200 Orange St.

A total of 246 voters cast their ballots during in-person early voting — 239 in the Democratic primary, and seven in the Republican primary. With over 40,000 affiliated registered voters in the city, the early vote saw under 1 percent turnout.

Connecticut does not have vote-by-mail or no-excuse absentee ballots.

New Haven has 33 polling locations — at least one in each of the city’s 30 wards.

ARIELA LOPEZ
Ariela Lopez covers City Hall and City Politics. Originally from New York City, she is a first-year in Branford College.