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Connecticut sees 'very strong' voter turnout

The state saw “very strong” voter turnout in Tuesday’s election and was on track to at least rival 2016’s high turnout, when about 77% of the state’s registered voters cast a ballot, according to the Secretary of the State’s office.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, with two hours left until the polls closed, 70% of the state’s 2.3 million registered voters had voted, said Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office.

That included 636,000 absentee ballots registered as of Monday night but did not include Election Day registration votes or the absentee ballots not yet entered into the system, he said.

The state is seeing a high number of absentee ballots, as all voters had the option to vote by absentee ballot due to the pandemic. 

Polling places across the state saw lines, which may have appeared longer due to social distancing, but “clearly there was an enthusiasm to come out and vote,” Rosenberg said. As of noon, the state had already reached 50% voter turnout.

In Norwich, dozens of voters had already lined up when election moderators arrived at the city’s polling places, signaling the expected high turnout in the presidential election, even after 5,182 voters had submitted absentee ballots prior to Tuesday.

As of 7 p.m., Norwich had a turnout of 73.5% of its total 20,123 registered voters as of Oct. 29, with 25% in absentee ballots. By comparison, in 2016, voter turnout was 74.99%.

Though there were lines at the Precinct 5 polling place, Troy Fisher, 28, called his wait "easy breezy."

“I feel like if you vote in person, it makes more of an impact, because people see you vote," Fisher said. "It’s very important.”

As of 6 p.m., approximately 47% of New London's 16,562 registered voters had voted, including more than 3,000 absentee ballots. New London’s turnout was 56% in 2016. 

Lynn Brown said COVID-19 was in the back of her mind when she left Tuesday morning to visit her polling place at the Science and Tech Magnet High School. It was crowded, but when she got in line she said she became at ease with safety protocols in place.

In Groton, where voter turnout reached 84.24% in 2016, Stefan Jones, 25, who felt more comfortable voting in person, was expecting long lines, but it only took him a few minutes to vote at Eastern Point Beach around lunchtime. In Groton, 8,694 people had voted by about 6 p.m. Tuesday, while the town also had thousands of more absentee ballots.

At the Stonington Borough firehouse, voters began lining up at 5:45 a.m. Shortly after the polls opened, the socially distanced line stretched more than 100 yards away to the Stonington Free Library, said moderator John Godin. By 8:45 a.m. crowds had dwindled.

“I’ve worked elections for the past 20 years and this was the largest crowd I’ve seen next to 2016,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of passion. This is democracy at its greatest.”

In Stonington, where 76% of registered voters cast ballots in 2016, 63% of the town’s 14,527 registered had cast ballots by noon Tuesday. This included 4,923 absentee ballots and 4,185 who had voted in person.

In Lyme, as of 5:35 p.m., 908 people had voted in person, and the town had received 781 absentee ballots, representing a turnout of 85%. Four years ago, 1,691 Lyme residents cast votes in the race for president.

As of 5 p.m., 11,234 votes, including absentees, had been cast in East Lyme, which already exceeded total votes in 2016. Democratic Registrar Wendi Sims said voter turnout represented 82%

In Old Lyme, about 1,836 of the town’s 6,047 registered voters had voted in person as of 1 p.m., while 2,500 voted by absentee ballot.

Town Clerk/Tax Collector Jill Keith said Preston received 801 absentee ballots as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, compared to 130 received in 2016. Voter registrations increased to 3,304 as of Oct. 29. Tuesday’s turnout was 83.5% as of 7:30 p.m., with 2,734 votes cast. In 2016, voter turnout was 81.8%

Ledyard reached more than 10,000 registered voters, up from about 8,993 in 2016 and about 9,017 in 2018. As of about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 4,540 electors voted in person, with about 2,800 absentee ballots being processed.

In Waterford, as of 8 p.m., 87.1% of its 14,252 registered voters had turned out to vote, including 4,728 absentee ballots.

Montville, a town with 11,002 registered voters, reported 79.68% voter turnout in this election, according to the Secretary of the State's website.

In Old Saybrook, 75% of the town’s 9,200 voters had cast their ballots in person or by mail, as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. That compares to 77% percent by the end of the day in 2016.

About 11 a.m., Salem Democratic Town Committee Chairman T.J. Butcher said there'd be an "incredible turnout," and Republican Town Committee Chairman Vernon Smith noted it had slowed down by that point but said it was "amazingly busy right from the start."

As of 4 p.m., with more than four hours to go until polls close, moderator Hugh McKenney said 2,192 people had cast their ballots, which included 729 absentee ballots. He said that represented about 74% of registered voters in Salem.

In the 2016 presidential election, 2,384 people voted in Salem, representing 87.52% of eligible voters, according to the Connecticut Secretary of the State's office. Only 10 municipalities in Connecticut, including Lyme, turned out at higher rates.

Day Staff Writers Julia Bergman, Claire Bessette, Karen Florin, Amanda Hutchinson, Erica Moser, Greg Smith, Joe Wojtas and Sten Spinella contributed to this report.

k.drelich@theday.com

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