Same day registration has little impact on turnout

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From left, Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, Burgess Alex Olbrys, Tax Collector Jim Goggin and Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi campaign at the entrance to City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck on Election Day. Despite same day registration this year in Connecticut, voter turnout remained consistent to previous years in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect. –FILE PHOTO
From left, Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, Burgess Alex Olbrys, Tax Collector Jim Goggin and Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi campaign at the entrance to City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck on Election Day. Despite same day registration this year in Connecticut, voter turnout remained consistent to previous years in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect. –FILE PHOTO

For the first time in the state’s history, eligible voters had the opportunity to register on Election Day this year. Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect saw few people take advantage of the new law.

Eight people turned out to register in Beacon Falls on Election Day, Beacon Falls Democratic Registrar of Voters Katherine Grace said.

In Naugatuck 35 people registered Nov. 5, Naugatuck Republican Registrar of Voters Janice Dambowsky said.

In Prospect 13 people registered to vote on Election Day, Prospect Democratic Registrar of Voters Kate Blinstrubas said. 

Although residents had the ability to register to vote on Election Day the number of people who cast their vote Nov. 5 remained pretty steady with past municipal elections.

Prospect had 2,859 people cast their vote this year for a turnout of 46 percent. During the 2009 municipal elections 2,648 people turn out to vote in Prospect and in 2011 2,637 people voted.

Beacon Falls saw 1,861 people, or 48 percent, turn out to vote in this election. The turnout was 1,767 and 1,971 in 2009 and 2011 respectively. 

Naugatuck had 4,903 people, or 28 percent, vote in this election, which falls between the 6,182 people who voted in 2009 and the 3,343 voters who turned out in 2011 when Mayor Robert Mezzo ran unopposed. This was also the first time that Naugatuck residents voted in November following a change to the borough Charter last year. Naugatuck’s municipal elections were previously held in May.

Grace said the turnout in Beacon Falls was typical to what the town sees each year.

“A lot of people don’t follow what’s going on in town. They might be moving soon, so they don’t get that involved,” Grace said.

Blinstrubas felt Prospect residents didn’t turn out to vote in the municipal election as much as they do in state elections because they weren’t upset over any issue.

“People are not agitated. There’s no hot button issue as there is in a state election,” Blinstrubas said. “There is a larger turn out for bigger issues.”

Leading up to the election the registrars voiced some concern over how Election Day registration would turn out since it had never been allowed before in Connecticut. 

However, none of the three towns ran into problems.

“It went very smoothly. We had no problems,” Grace said.

Blinstrubas echoed Grace’s sentiments.

“It went very well. There were no problems during the day,” Blinstrubas said.

 “It went pretty smoothly,” Dambowsky said.

All three towns feel they will be prepared for the state elections next year, which includes a gubernatorial race.

“Even though there might be more people coming in during the state election we can handle it,” Grace said.

Blinstrubas said Prospect is already looking for ways it could improve same day registration and streamline the process for the state elections.

“They only thing we found was that it slowed down the end of evening because we have to wait until 8 p.m. to count the ballots,” Blinstrubas said. “In Prospect, because we expected lower voter turnout, we didn’t code ballots for Election Day registration. Once we code them they can go through machine and not be hand counted.”

Blinstrubas said the ballots would be coded during state and national elections, which would shorten the reporting time at the end of the night.

“Even though it went really well it’s bound to improve,” Blinstrubas said.

Grace said she has not even begun to think about what will happen during the next presidential race in 2016 as far as the same day registration is concerned.

“They change the laws every time we turn around so there might be different rules by that point,” Grace said.

Although this year’s turnout for same day registration may have been small, Blinstrubas was pleased with the results.

“That’s 13 people who got to vote that wouldn’t normally have voted,” Blinstrubas said.