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Haddam’s First “Early Voting” Election

By Sally Haase

(April 1, 2024) — On Saturday, March 30, 2024, Haddam’s four registrars waited at the Fire House on Saybrook Road for registered voters who wanted to take advantage of the first Early Voting election in the town.

Registrars Kate Wessling (D) (above photo, left) and Raymond Skarsten (R) (above photo center right), and deputy registrars Betsy Clifford (D) (above photo, center left) and Diana Cottrell (R) (above photo, right), had plenty of time to discuss the outcome of this first expanded-hours election, which was the Presidential Preference Primary. It allowed voters four days before the Presidential Election Primary Day, Tuesday April 2, 2024, to cast their votes. After these four days, seventy-one Haddam voters had cast their ballots.

Early voting in Connecticut was signed into law by Governor Lamont in June of 2023, Connecticut being the 47th state to allow early voting. Only Alabama, Mississippi and New Hampshire have not adopted a similar law.  Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, “Many people do not have the privilege of taking time off work, coming in a little late, or leaving early to cast their vote on Election Day.”

This first early voting election in Haddam was staffed by the town’s registrars to measure the success and performance of this new system. The first day of early voting was the busiest with thirty-four votes cast. Saturday, the last day, five voters were checked off the rolls.

Reflecting on this first experiment, the four registrars agreed that Haddam turnout was somewhat of a success when they polled other towns. Registrar Wessling attributed this to marketing.  Information was posted on the town’s website, in social media, a mailing and in newspapers. And, yes, even an erroneous postcard mailing by the printer brought attention to the primary. Yet, can 71 voters out of a total of 1660 registered Democrats and 1762 registered Republicans be called a success?

Ineligible to vote in the primary were 2,645 unaffiliated voters and 90 voters registered to other parties. The registrars thought that the voting public might need time to accept this new system. Additionally, a busy Easter week might have contributed to low turnout. They noted that based on the new law, approximately forty thousand dollars was budgeted for early voting in 2024.

When asked about the experience of other states with their form of early voting, Registrar Wessling said that it is too early to tell. There are too many variables to draw any conclusions about the success of early voting. First, there were the Covid years with “no excuse” absentee voting. Together with local, state and Presidential primaries, there is not enough history and data to make any useful judgments.

How many Democrats and Republicans voted by noon on Saturday? Unofficially, 35 Democrats and 36 Republicans took advantage of the early voting system. The ballots will be kept in a locked box and counted on the day of the Presidential Preference Primary, Tuesday April 2, 2024, along with absentee ballots.

Photo by Sally Haase

 

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