Following a national trend, voter registration continues to soar in Connecticut, especially among young people, who traditionally have weak participation in elections.
According to data from the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, from the 2016 election through the end of September, 103,436 new voters registered as Democrats, compared to 53,371 who registered as Republicans. But many more Connecticut residents — 168,090 –registered as unaffiliated voters.
Although voter registration in Connecticut has surged for all age groups, the biggest increase is among young voters, aged 18 to 25.
In the last midterm cycle, as of Oct. 10, 2014, only 7,960 Connecticut residents in that age bracket had registered to vote. As of Oct.10 of this year, 51,659 young voters had registered.
“It’s tremendous,” said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill. “I feel like I’ve been waiting all my life for young people to turn out and now they have.”
More of those young people registered as Democrats (16,797), than Republicans, (6,596). But more than half –28,566 — of those new young voters registered as unaffiliated.
The increase in voter registration across the board is significant, as well. Since there’s no presidential contest in a midterm election, the number of those signing up to vote in those cycles is usually depressed. That trend has been broken in Connecticut and elsewhere across the nation.
Compared to the same time period in the last mid-term election, new Democratic and Republican voter registrations in Connecticut more than doubled and unaffiliated voter registration have tripled.
“Just in September, we had more than 20,000 registrations,” said Merrill.
Voter registration in Connecticut ends on Oct. 30 and enrollment usually surges as that deadline draws near. This year is no different, with the pace of registrations accelerating even more since the beginning of the month. Connecticut also has Election Day registration for those who meet the eligibility requirements.
More than 5,600 new voter registration were processed in the first 10 days of the month, as the controversy over the confirmation of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh transfixed the nation and deepened its partisan divide.
In those 10 days, 2,312 voters registered as Democrats, 1,202 registered as Republicans and 2,153 as unaffiliated.
Merrill attributed the increase of voter registrations to several factors. One is that Connecticut residents can now sign up to vote when they are at the Department of Motor vehicles and online.
An increase in social media campaigns aimed at registering voters is also helping increase registrations, Merrill said, as is increased politicization of the nation since President Donald Trump won the White House.
“The 2016 election seems to have galvanized voters,” Merrill said.
Connecticut is one of 19 states where Democrats are ahead of Republicans when it comes to active registered voters. As of Oct. 10, there were 780,313 active Democratic voters registered in Connecticut, compared to 457,813 active registered Republicans.
The number of unaffiliated active voters, who usually split their votes between party candidates fairly evenly, was 862,466.
Although registered Democrats in Connecticut outnumber registered Republicans, Democrats in the state turn out to vote “at a slightly lower percentage” than GOP voters, Merrill said.
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 on Nov. 6.
The Taylor Swift factor
Raven Brooks, chief operating officer of Vote.org, a national voter registration organization, said national voter registration by his group is at “record numbers,” exceeding registrations in the 2016 presidential election “and we are not even finished with October enrollment yet.”
“We’re breaking every record,” Brooks said.
He said 6,122 people in Connecticut signed up to vote through Vote.org this year — 2,718 in October alone.
Vote.org helps residents in states that allow online registration by providing them with forms and instructions, and those in states that don’t allow online voting by providing them a PDF of a registration form they can fill in and mail to their registrars of voters.
In some states, the organization faxes completed forms to registrars.
Raven attributes the new interest in registering to vote this year to increased activity by voter registration groups – and to celebrities like Taylor Swift who have taken to social media to boost enrollment, especially among younger voters.
“A lot of time, younger voters don’t find out about elections until much later than everybody else,” Raven said. “But then it’s often too late to register to vote.”
Swift’s Instagram post on Sunday urged her 112 million followers to register to vote on Vote.org and catapulted the generally apolitical singer into the fray of November’s midterms by endorsing two Tennessee Democrats.
Raven said his group registered 364,000 new voters, mostly 18 to 25 years old, within two days of that Instagram post.