Primaries for this year’s municipal elections have been pushed back a week and a day due to what a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill called a “random kind of calendar coincidence.”
Primary elections in 23 cities and towns will take place Wednesday, Sept. 16. Such elections typically happen 56 days prior to the General Election.
Av Harris, a spokesman for Merrill, said voting was pushed back a week as specified in state statute because it originally fell the day after Labor Day. Then it was pushed back again because the new date coincided with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
Statute says that if a primary falls on a “day on which the tenets of a religion forbid secular activity, the primary shall be held on the next succeeding day.”
Harris said he didn’t know the last time this happened, if ever.
Quinnipiac University Political Science Professor Scott McLean said the date change is unusual, but he doesn’t see it having much of an effect on voter turnout. Municipal primaries, with historically low turnout, typically draw only the most stalwart voters who are likely to be well-informed of any changes to the election calendar.
McLean suggested that Tuesday elections are, by their nature, not conducive to a high turnout. He said holding General Elections on a Tuesday in November is a throwback to an era dominated by agriculture when farmers had to work around harvest season and trips to market.
“We’ve been sort of stuck with this date,” he said.
Harris said the Office of the Secretary of the State does not have voter turnout statistics from the last municipal primary election in 2013.
In 2011, turnout ranged from a high of 47.8 percent in Middlebury to a low of 15.9 percent in East Hartford.
While other countries hold elections on a Sunday or as part of a public holiday, McLean said the idea hasn’t gained traction in the United States. “I suspect people who are involved in politics see it as something that’s unpredictable and they aren’t sure how it would work,” he said.
But he credited Merrill with making strides in increasing turnout though an enhanced registration process. Last year, she unveiled a website that allows anyone with a valid driver’s license to register to vote online.
“For the most part, 80 percent of people who get registered do end up voting,” McLean said. “It can get us quite a long way toward stronger voter turnout if we just make registration as easy as possible.”
Only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote in their local party primary. Those who want to register or change their affiliations in time for the primaries have until Sept. 11 to do so by mail or online. In-person registrations will be taken through noon on Sept. 15 at local registrar of voters offices.
Merrill said the primaries are an important part of municipal elections in communities dealing with issues like local budgets, schools, road construction and environmental protection. “I urge eligible voters in these towns to register with a party if they haven’t done so, and cast a ballot on Wednesday September 16th. It is very easy to register to vote, you can do it in minutes online if you have a Connecticut driver’s license,” she said.
The following primary elections will be held on Sept. 16:
Bethel, Republican – First Selectman
Bridgeport, Democrat – Mayor, Board of Education (Districts 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139), City Clerk, Town Clerk, City Sheriffs, City Council (Districts 127, 130, 131, 132, 138)
Bridgeport, Republican – City Sheriff
Durham, Republican – Selectman
East Haddam, Republican – Selectman
East Windsor, Republican – First Selectman, Selectman
Ellington, Republican – First Selectman
Hampton, Republican – Tax Collector
Hartford, Democrat – Judge of Probate, Mayor, Treasurer, City Council, Constables
Killingworth, Republican – First Selectman, Selectman, Board of Finance, Zoning Board of Appeals Alternates, Fire Commissioner, Regional Board of Ed-2yr. Vacancy
Lebanon, Republican – First Selectman
Middletown, Democrat – Common Council, Board of Education
Naugatuck, Republican – Mayor
New Britain, Democrat – Board of Education
New Haven, Democrat – Board of Alders districts 1, 11, 12, 14, 18, 20, 28, 30
New London, Democrat – Mayor, City Council
Norwalk, Democrat – Common Council (Districts A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2), Board of Education (Districts A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2) , Second Taxing District Commissioner
Portland, Democrat – Town Clerk
Somers, Republican – First Selectman
Stamford, Democrat – Board of Representatives
Stratford, Democrat – Town Council District 3, Zoning Commission District 1
Stratford, Republican – Town Council Districts 2, 7
Suffield, Democrat – Selectman
Waterbury, Democrat – Board of Aldermen District 4
Waterbury, Republican – Board of Aldermen District 2
West Haven, Democrat – Mayor, City Clerk, Treasurer, Tax Collector, Board of Education, Board of Assessment Appeals, Councilman at Large, Councilman