Local races are all about turnout (and name order)

Troubling that a significant number of voters are so ill-informed that they don’t know how to correctly fill out a ballot. But based on anecdotal evidence and the high interest in New London about where names will be placed on the ballot by way of a lottery, that appears to be the case.

In elections for New London City Council and Board of Education, the ballot states voters can choose any seven candidates among the names that are aligned horizontally by party affiliation. But election veterans say a fair number of voters invariably look at the columns vertically, viewing those candidates as competing head-to-head and choosing only one.

So, get your name aligned vertically against a weak opponent or, better yet, no opponents, and you could well be on your way to victory.

Sigh …

Confused as some folks may be, at least they vote. Most registered voters won’t bother in municipal elections. The shadow cast by the 2020 election over this year’s municipal elections is particularly large and dark. The Democratic presidential election is in full swing, the field (thankfully) narrowing even before the first primary ballots are cast. President Trump, meanwhile, is already firing away in tweets and holding campaign-style rallies — not that those ever ended.

All elections are about turnout, but none more so than the local variety. This was proved true on primary night Tuesday in the biggest shock of the night, with challenger Justin Elicker soundly defeating three-term New Haven Mayor Toni Harp in the Democratic primary.

The explanation? Turnout.

As a good analysis by the New Haven Independent pointed out, the candidates roughly split the city’s 30 wards, but turnout was higher in the predominately white neighborhoods that Elicker, who is white, had targeted. Meanwhile, the black and Hispanic neighborhoods that the African-American Harp had counted on, and did win, had low voter turnouts.

In Bridgeport, Mayor Joe Ganim showed the importance of collecting absentee ballots. Ganim, who voters four years ago returned as mayor after he had served seven years for corruption in that office — we still don’t get it — lost the voting machine total to state Sen. Marilyn Moore 4,140 to 3,796, but won the Democratic primary by defeating Moore in absentee ballots 932-303. Yes, that looks suspicious to us, too.

Meanwhile, in Preston, Gregory S. Moran Sr. defeated Edward Gauthier in the Republican primary for first selectman 99-47. That’s about a 17% turnout. But the people have spoken, sort of.

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 Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. 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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