A Closer Look at Voter Turnout

A higher percentage of Connecticut voters cast ballots in last week’s election than in 2016, but long lines at the polls were likely due more to COVID precautions, as fewer ballots were cast in-person.

More than 1.85 million voters cast ballots in the November general election out of more than 2.33 million eligible voters, according to the unofficial results available Wednesday from the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office. 

That equals a statewide voter turnout rate of 79.65 percent, up 2.7 percent from 2016, when more than 1.67 million cast ballots out of more than 2.17 million eligible voters – a turnout rate of 76.94 percent.

Widespread use of absentee ballots was the key procedural difference between the two elections, as the Connecticut General Assembly voted to allow any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot, and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office mailed absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state.

In the 2016 election, there were 129,480 absentee ballots cast in Connecticut. In the 2020 election, 664,374 absentee ballots were cast – more than four times as many as four years ago. In 2020, absentee ballots counted for 35.46 percent of ballots cast. They accounted for just 7.57 percent of the ballots cast in 2016.

Given widespread absentee voting, 351,219 more ballots were cast in person at the polls in 2016 than in 2020.

In the town of Clinton, despite reports of long lines throughout the day and into the evening, voters cast 2,598 fewer ballots in person than in 2016. Clinton actually had lower voter turnout in 2020 — when 75.74 percent of voters cast ballots — than in 2016, when 82.59 percent voted.

New London’s voter turnout rate of 54.96 percent also appears to have decreased from 56.31 percent in 2016, although 380 more ballots were cast overall.

Hartford also saw a lower percentage of voters turn out in 2020, when 49.98 percent of voters cast ballots – compared to 62.75 percent in 2016. 

In contrast, Bridgeport voters cast thousands more ballots both in-person and absentee – raising the voter turnout rate from 56.44 percent in 2016 to 71.62 percent in 2020. 10,950 more absentee ballots were cast in the city and 5,541 more ballots were cast in person than in 2016.

For Connecticut’s five largest cities combined (Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Hartford and Waterbury), voter turnout in 2020 was 67.15 percent, higher than the 62.92 percent turnout in 2016. That’s 227,901 votes cast in 2020, compared to 205,612 in 2016. Those five cities accounted for 12.27 percent of all ballots cast in the state, and 10.7 percent of the absentee ballots cast.

Results are not yet final, and could change depending on outstanding absentee ballots or corrections.

The results from Lebanon in the 2020 election are missing from the data set.

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