Election polls at an elementary school in Hartford Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CtMirror.org
Election polls at an elementary school in Hartford Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CtMirror.org

Connecticut residents are registering to vote at an unprecedented rate in a non-presidential election cycle, indicating increased interest in politics since President Donald Trump won the White House, analysts say.

According to data from the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, from the 2016 election through June of this year, 81,908 new voters registered as Democrats, compared to 43,390 who registered as Republicans.

Including those who signed up as unaffiliated and for other, smaller parties, a total of 275,114 people have signed up to vote in Connecticut since the 2016 presidential election.

That’s a surge in voter registration in the state during a mid-term election cycle, when the number of those signing up to vote is usually depressed.

In the same 20-month period during the last midterm cycle, only 34,517 Democrats and 16,392 Republicans registered to vote.

“People are more intensely politically involved in this off year,” said Ron Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.

The new voters in this election cycle will join the hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who are already registered by party and are eligible to vote in the Aug. 14 party primaries, which are closed to unaffiliated voters.

The number of registered voters is expected to increase as the parties escalate voter registration drives through the summer and early fall ahead of November’s general election.

The boom that’s already apparent in voter registration could be an indication of greater political involvement among state residents.

Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University, said the rise in Democratic voters is an indication of “a Democratic Party fired up over Trump.”

A hotly contested GOP gubernatorial race may also have boosted Republican voter enrollment.

Schurin said that on the Democratic side, the increased voter rolls are  “clearly related to a reaction to Donald Trump.”

He said the engine driving GOP voter registration is less clear.

“I don’t think Trump is a significant factor there,” Schurin said. “Maybe some people are motivated to register as Republicans because of the antipathy to the Malloy administration.”

The state’s new “motor voter” law has made it easier for all residents, including independents, to register to vote.

Connecticut is one of 19 states where Democrats are ahead of Republicans when it comes to active registered voters. As of June 28, there were 760,672 active registered Democratic voters in Connecticut, compared to 446, 265 active registered Republicans.

The Connecticut Secretary of 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 in the primary and general election this year.

Despite the growth in Democratic and Republican voters, unaffiliated voters continue to be the biggest bloc of voters in Connecticut.

A whopping 143,217 unaffiliated voters were registered to vote in this midterm cycle, bringing the total number of unaffiliated voters, as of the end of June, to 857,111. That’s more than the number of registered Democrats in the state and nearly twice the number of registered Republicans.

According to a recent University of Virginia study on voter registration, Connecticut is in a minority of states when it comes to the numbers of unaffiliated voters. It is just one of six states where independents are a plurality and Democrats outnumber Republicans.  But the study also said that, nationally, the number of voters choosing to identify themselves as independents is growing.

“With the growth in independents, many voters seem to be saying to the two major parties: ‘a pox on both your houses,’” the study said.

Rhodes Cook, a political analyst who helped write the UVA study and publisher of the Rhodes Cook political newsletter, said party affiliation is the most important factor in the outcome of an election, because unaffiliated voters nationally split close to 50-50 when it comes to voting for a Republican or Democratic candidate in a general election.

“More and more in the political age of ours, when you register as a Democrat or a Republican you are doing so with intent,” Cook said.

He also said that although independents are a growing plurality, Connecticut is “a fairly blue state.”

The UVA study also said that, nationally, 40 percent of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29 percent are Republicans, and 28 percent are independents.

The national Democratic advantage in registration states like Connecticut  — some states don’t register voters by political party — approaches 12 million, the study adds, but that advantage is largely concentrated in “blue” states like Connecticut, California and a handful of others.

Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with UVA’s Center for Politics, said although Connecticut has voted for Democrats on the federal level, its voting pattern for local offices has been different.

“A fair number of Democrats don’t vote for the Democratic candidate,” he said. “And Connecticut is also a state that is historically very comfortable in electing Republican governors,” he said.

Rhodes Cook / UVA Center for Politics / http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/registering-by-party-where-the-democrats-and-republicans-are-ahead/

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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