Secretary of the State Denise Merrill officially certified the results of the 2012 election Wednesday morning and reported a healthy voter turnout despite the arrival of a severe hurricane just before Election Day.
More than 1.5 million Connecticut voters turned out for the Nov. 6 election. That’s 74 percent of all the registered voters in the state, Merrill said. More than 118,000 people voted by absentee ballot.
“This is a very healthy voter turnout. About 18 percent higher than the 2010 election,” Merrill said.
The turnout was down slightly from the last presidential election in 2008 when 78 percent of the state’s voters came to the polls. Merrill said it’s difficult to know exactly what caused the slight dip but the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October likely contributed.
“We had a major hurricane and that certainly may have made a difference, particularly in some southern parts of the state. But I’m not concerned about it. It’s still a very strong turnout,” she said.
In fact, only six states in the country had a higher percentage of their voters cast ballots this year, she said. Three of the top six turnout states have Election Day registration, something Connecticut will have beginning next year. Merrill predicted that will boost voter turnout in the future.
In general, Merrill said the election went “remarkably smooth.” The state’s biggest problem this year was long lines at the polls in some places like West Hartford where 89.5 percent of the town’s voters cast ballots, she said.
Towns cutting down on their budgets likely contributed to the problem, she said. The town of West Hartford consolidated the number of polling places it ran from 20 to nine this year.
“You can not, in a presidential election, choose this time to cut the budget for elections. In many places towns were trying to squeeze down the election budget and they didn’t have enough poll workers or tables,” Merrill said.
The national focus on voter identification requirements may have also contributed to the long lines, as poll workers were anxious to get the process right, she said.
Merrill said she would like to change a state statute which dictates what information can be posted at the polls. She said she would like to make it legal to post a chart at the voting table laying out exactly what information voters need to cast ballots.
“I think that will help. Right now, by statute only certain things can be posted at election places. It’s a very specific list,” Merrill said.
Allowing for some form of early voting also would shorten poll lines in Connecticut, she said. This year the legislature passed a bill that puts into motion a process to amend the state constitution to legalize no-excuse absentee voting.
Currently, the constitution limits absentee ballots to people who will be out-of-state, are disabled, or are unable to go to the polls on Election Day because of their religion.
The issue will need to be reconsidered by the legislature next year and, if re-passed, it will be a ballot question placed before voters in the 2014 statewide election.