Contemplating issues like early voting, inflation and reproductive rights, Connecticut voters cast ballots at polling locations across the state on Tuesday in what local election officials were calling a heavy turnout by mid-day.
By the time polls close at 8 p.m., voters will have chosen candidates for governor, U.S. senator, statewide officers and legislators as well as deciding whether Connecticut should allow an early voting option in future elections.
Unofficial numbers provided by Secretary of the State Mark Kohler’s office a little after noon found that nearly 140,000 voters had cast in person since polls opened in addition to the more than 123,000 who had returned absentee ballots.
“Everything we’re hearing is suggesting that it is a good turnout for the day,” Kohler said through a spokesman.
Voting was brisk at several polling locations late in the morning. By 11 a.m. more than 1,600 voters had cast their ballots at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford. MaryAnn Mielniczuk, the head moderator, said they were prepared with extra ballots.
“I haven’t seen this, this heavy for a midterm,” Mielniczuk said. She said if voter enthusiasm continues it will be “crazy” during the presidential election year.
The same was true in Tolland, where turnout was surging at the local senior center. Moderator Bea White-Ramirez said election officials saw 250 voters in the first hour, setting a pace that continued at least through late morning.
“[Turnout] has been astoundingly huge,” White-Ramirez said. “Marvelously, wonderfully steady with no lull. The lines have been out the door. It’s a good reason to have a line.”
While election officials seemed to agree voters were engaged Tuesday, there was agreement on little else. Midterms are often defined by what’s happening with the two parties. Typically, in a midterm election voters vote against the party in power, which right now are the Democrats.
Though Republicans seemed unlikely to reverse that reality on the state level in Connecticut, many voters reported casting ballots against incumbent Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, in part due to economic concerns.
That was the case for Paul and Pamela Reynolds in Tolland.
“The economy and inflation, they’re killing us,” Paul Reynolds said. “I’m retired on a fixed income and it’s hard when utility bills are going up.”
Richard Carabillo agreed, saying he believed Lamont contributed to inflation when he and state Democrats passed a gas tax holiday that did not suspend the state’s tax on diesel fuel.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Carabillo said. “[Lamont] excluded diesel fuel and it adds to inflationary prices. Everything in the grocery store is shipped by truck and that’s diesel.”
Others gave Lamont high marks and cast their votes based more on social issues. Celeste Senechal, a retired state worker, said reproductive rights were on her mind as she cast her votes for Democratic candidates.
“I have two daughters and the way things are going they won’t have any medical privacy. Why don’t women have medical privacy but men do?” Senechal said.
Senechal said she also found Democrats more willing to take action in an effort to curb climate change, a pressing issue she said was demonstrated by the unseasonably warm weather felt around the region this week.
“It was almost 80 degrees yesterday and today it’s barely 50,” Senechal said. “That’s not normal.”
In Hartford, Roger Beckman, said he voted straight Democratic Party.
“They have my best interest at heart,” Beckman said. “We don’t want Republicans taking over the Senate. I know that the outcome would not be in my favor.”
Beckman voted at Parker Memorial Community Center where around 500 voters had cast their ballots. Barbara Johnson, the head moderator there, said that was a good number. She said she anticipates many more later tonight after voters get off work.
In West Hartford, Rep. Tammy Exum, a Democrat who is on the ballot but without an opponent, said you can never tell what’s going to drive someone to the polls. She said there’s a lot happening at the national level and that could be having an impact at the state level.
“We may benefit from that,” Exum said. “It is motivating.”
She said what’s on the line Tuesday is “our values and our priorities,” something she said was greater than any one candidate or one personality.
West Hartford voters seemed poised to back a ballot question asking residents to amend the state constitution and allow the legislature to adopt an early voting policy in Connecticut, one of just four states nationwide that currently does not allow the practice.
John Demitrus, who was holding a sign for the Republican ticket, said he doesn’t understand the “anti-early voting sentiment.”
He said he understands the staffing issues that might be required for a few more days of early voting, but “they should make this as pain-free as possible.”
Voters reported being split on the issue in Tolland. Carabillo said he believed voting prior to the end of a campaign cycle could put early voters at a disadvantage in the event that late-breaking news colors their opinions of the candidates.
“Voting is a right and really should get out there and vote,” Carabillo said, adding that many communities offer transportation to help get voters to the polls on Election Day. “We already have absentee ballot voting. That should be more than sufficient.”
Others disagreed. Yolande Bekley said she voted to allow early voting, which she said could benefit people whose jobs make it difficult to get to the polls in the middle of a work week.
“Today I am lucky. I have time to get here but people have to work,” she said. “For me yesterday or Saturday would have been [more convenient].”