Registering to vote is not enough

Welcome, newly registered Connecticut voters. We can use your help.

The Day reported last week that nearly three times as many people in 13 towns have registered to vote since the 2016 election as did in the midterm cycle before that. That reflects a trend across the state and the effects of being able to register online, including at the DMV.

That is the all-important first step, but it's not enough. Your vote doesn't count until you cast one.

The 772 square miles that comprise New London County encompass all or much of four state Senate districts and 12 state House of Representatives districts. Senate districts being fewer — 36 in all — they cover more towns apiece. Most of the 151 House districts, with some urban exceptions including one each in New London and Norwich, cover at least two towns.

Choices in the Nov. 6 elections are truly local, which means that the candidates who are vying to represent you are local. Although all politics, as the old saw goes, is local, these elections are the races that can directly communicate your interests to the General Assembly when it makes tough decisions for the next two-year deficit budget.

Ouch. To assume a red-ink budget is painful but virtually certain, along with the sort of sacrifices that will give meaning to that word "sacrifice." This should be the first impetus to vote. It's far better to be part of the process than to find out after the fact that your taxes, tuition or state parks are collateral damage.

Newly registered young people and other first-time voters may have a fresh take on the conventional wisdom of politics. Incumbency is traditionally a leg up, but maybe not if voters are coming to this anew and don't like the way things are going. If you disapprove of past performance, you can ask an incumbent how they voted, why they voted that way, and what they will do next. Don't be shy.

For the first time in eight years Dan Malloy won't be the foil for the legislature, whose leaders like to feel like leaders. Malloy, a strong albeit unpopular governor, never let them think that uncontested. The new guy — and it will be a guy, most likely Democrat Ned Lamont, Republican Bob Stefanowski or longshot independent candidate Oz Griebel — will be formulating the first budget of his administration and feeding it to a legislature new voters should help to shape. In a closely divided legislature, both the Republican and the Democratic caucuses have been throwing their weight around. Incumbents have had practice. Newcomers, despite less seniority, still have a vote apiece. They could change the tenor of the debate.

Three of the four state Senate races in the region include incumbents: two Republicans and a Democrat, two women and a man. Political veterans, a Democratic man and a Republican woman, are contesting a Republican-held seat in the 33rd Senate District as newcomers.

The 12 local House races will feature 10 incumbents, five of them Republican, three of them women. The 39th District in New London awaits a challenger to the incumbent Democrat. One race, the 40th, covering parts of Groton and Ledyard, is a rematch.

The traditional start of the two-month local campaign season comes after Labor Day weekend. In two weeks the politicking will warm up, and by the next Monday holiday, Oct. 8, signs will be dotting the lawns along with falling leaves. In the meanwhile, the Secretary of the State's website needs to make it just as easy to find out about the candidates in your district as her office did to enable online registration. Until it does, start by searching the website Ballotpedia for the candidates running in your district. The Connecticut General Assembly website can answer the question of what district your town is in.

You deserve more accessible information to make it easier to follow through on your new commitment.

Maybe you didn't give particular thought to becoming a voter, but went along with the DMV registration. Maybe you aren't even registered yet. You can still go to the state's online site to do so.

Be a real voter. Get ready to vote.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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