HARTFORD, CT — While the two party system continues to dominate Connecticut politics, the Millennial generation — like much of the electorate — doesn’t seem to want to be associated with either party according to recent registration data.
The Secretary of the State’s office shows 18- to 37-year-olds are registering to vote at a higher rate than in the past, and between January and last week most signed up as unaffiliated voters.
Between January and last week, 36,597 Millennial voters registered unaffiliated. There were another 25,755 voters who registered with the Democratic Party and 10,416 voters who registered with the Republican Party.
Another 1,365 registered with the Independent Party, which is the third largest party in Connecticut. There were another 189 registered with the Libertarian Party, 62 with the Green Party, and 24 with the Working Families Party.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said her office saw a surge in young voters, ages 18-25, registering to vote this summer and expects the trend will continue.
But the real question is will they will show up at the polls on Election Day.
During the last midterm election, the youth voting bloc, which is now larger than the Baby Boomer generation, had the lowest turnout in 40 years.
In 2015, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University found that youth voter turnout fell to its lowest level on record. About 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year-old citizens cast ballots in 2014, compared with an average of 26.6 percent for the same age range in other midterm elections over the previous 40 years. The youth who said they were registered to vote that year was also the lowest over the past 40 years.
In Connecticut, between November 2008 and 2010, only 8,630 new voters ages 18 to 25 registered to vote. During that same time period, 39,337 new voters ages 26-64 registered to vote.
Between November 2012 and July 2014, only 14,268 young voters ages 18 to 25 registered to vote, whereas 54,188 voters ages 26-64 registered to vote.
Between November 2016 and the end of July, there were 43,722 young voters ages 18 to 25 who signed up to vote.
This year seems to be different. Younger voters also seem to be engaged, but will that translate to voting?
Asked by the Quinnipiac University poll in August how much attention 18-34 year olds were paying to the gubernatorial contest, 40 percent either said “a lot” or “some.” Thirty-one percent of that same age group said they weren’t paying any attention to the race.
In general, the poll found Republicans who are hoping to win back the open governor’s seat are paying slightly more attention to the governor’s race than voters on the Democratic side or the unaffiliated, which the poll refers to as independents.
It’s not clear what exactly that means for a race that’s been widely described as a “toss up,” by political analysts.
Oz Griebel, who petitioned his way onto the ballot and is not affiliated with either major party, said during a recent debate that more young people are registering as unaffiliated voters because the two-party system doesn’t work.
“Your votes matter in many ways more today than they ever have before,” Griebel told about 700 UConn students last week during a debate. “You’re going to own the result of that vote in a way that those of us who are older won’t.”
Some young people have also been inspired to register to vote by school shootings.
March of Our Lives, the organization started by Parkland, Florida students following the massacre at their school on Feb. 14, 2017, went on an 80-city tour this summer from California to Texas to Baltimore and Connecticut.
During the events they made a point of registering people to vote.
Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student, told hundreds in Newtown this past August that they registered more young people to vote than any single effort has managed.
The group also created a vast network of email addresses and social media followings that they use to stay in touch.
The group is planning to start using #TurnoutTuesday to unite young people around the same get-out-the-vote action every Tuesday from Oct. 2 until Nov. 6.
This summer before the Aug. 14 primary Connecticut also saw a surge in voter registrations.
Merrill has said that between 2016 and the end of July 2018, a total of 275,114 new voters have registered.
Political trends may have contributed to the spike in overall voter registration, but it’s also become easier to register to vote.
All a person has to do is get online and sign up over the Internet. The Registrar of Voters of the town where they live will then verify the information and add them to the voting rolls.
Voters are also able to register to vote when they renew their licensing information at the Department of Motor Vehicles.