Breaking down 2022 and 2018 election numbers in southeastern Connecticut
Southeastern Connecticut mirrored statewide trends this election in both increased vote share for Gov. Ned Lamont compared to 2018 and in decreased turnout compared to the last midterm, according to unofficial results reported to the Connecticut Secretary of the State, which also highlight the power of incumbency.
Lamont was elected four years ago with 49.4% of the vote and was reelected this year with 55.9% of the vote, whereas Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski’s vote share declined from 46.2% to 43.1%. Third-party candidates accounted for 4.4% of the vote in 2018, compared to just under 1% this year.
The governor’s vote share increased in all 21 municipalities in New London County, the most in Old Lyme, where he picked up 11.1 percentage points. This was one of four towns in the county Lamont flipped, along with Waterford, Ledyard and Colchester.
While U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, won comfortably with 58.2% of the vote, he won by a lower margin against Republican challenger Mike France than against other opponents in recent years. Courtney garnered 59.4% of the vote in 2020, 62.2% in 2018, and 63.2% in 2016.
France lives in Ledyard, which he has represented part of in the 42nd House District since 2015. In his bid for Congress, he got 42.7% of the vote in Ledyard while Courtney got 55.2%.
In addition to noting that France lost his hometown, Ledyard Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jake Troy said Ledyard broke for the Democratic candidate in 10 of the 12 races. The other two are state representative races, and in one, the Democratic candidate was a placeholder.
“Voters chose candidates that will protect democracy, stand up for women’s rights and fight for working people. The Ledyard DTC will continue our work and will prove to voters why Democrats are the clear choice for Ledyard not just this time, but every time,” Troy said in a statement. The Ledyard Republican Town Committee didn’t reply to an email Friday.
Statewide voter turnout was lower this year than during the last midterm elections ― 57.6% compared to 65.2% ― but was still higher than in the 2014 or 2010 midterms.
Voter turnout in New London was 33.8%, the fourth lowest in the state after Bethlehem, Hartford and Bridgeport.
“I think we’ve got work to do, as a town committee,” said Zak Leavy, who has been chairman of the New London Democratic Town Committee for about six months. He would like to see more polling places, noting that the high school can be a far walk for some people who don’t have a car.
“I also think it comes down to Democrats making phone calls, knocking doors, really upping our efforts to increase turnout,” Leavy said, and he thinks in a lower-income community where people often work two jobs, early voting will be beneficial.
Mara Suttmann-Lea, a government professor at Connecticut College whose specializations include political participation and campaigns, said it remains to be seen how much turnout is driven by young voters. Post-2016, Suttmann-Lea also wonders what polls might be missing.
“This generation is very organized, and they are very active and passionate about grassroots and engagement,” the professor said, but noted they are difficult to poll and “there’s more to be done to capture their intent to vote and vote choices, and figure out ways to actually contact them and get what they’re thinking.” Voters in Generation Z, after all, don’t have landlines.
Speaking about some of the issues that may have driven voters this election, such as the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Suttmann-Lea noted that political scientists have observed increasing nationalization of local and state races.
Some voters indicated as much at the polls Tuesday. Stonington resident Michael Finiguerra, 40, said it’s a huge impact on his vote if local candidates support national candidates who don’t align with his values ― such as education and being pro-choice. James Dinoto, 73, also of Stonington, said he wants to stop Republicans before they get started in government.
Legislative races: What changed and what stayed the same?
No incumbents were unseated in southeastern Connecticut, but the open 20th Senate District seat flipped from Republican to Democrat. Republican Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme decided not to run for reelection, and the contest was between Democrat Martha Marx ― who unsuccessfully ran against Formica in 2020 and 2018 ― and Republican Jerry Labriola Jr.
The district includes all of New London, Waterford, East Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem and Bozrah, and parts of Montville and Old Saybrook.
In 2018 and 2020, Marx only won in her hometown of New London. But this year, she also picked up East Lyme and Old Lyme. She got 53.5% of the vote in East Lyme compared to 41.5% there in 2020 and 38.2% in 2018.
Like Formica, Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington, is an example of a Republican incumbent who has won in the Democratic-leaning town where he lives. Whereas the district used to include all of Stonington and North Stonington, it now includes parts of Stonington and Ledyard in addition to all of North Stonington.
When he first ran in 2020 and unseated incumbent Rep. Kate Rotella, Howard was carried by North Stonington, as he got only 48.1% of the vote in Stonington. But this year, he got 55.6% of the vote in his town, which was higher than Ledyard but lower than North Stonington.
Some challenged incumbents got a higher percentage of votes this year than they did in either 2020 or 2018: Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton; Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; and Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin.
The closest race in southeastern Connecticut this year was the 38th House District race, in which incumbent Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, won with 51% of the vote. By comparison, she won with 51.2% in 2020 and 51.6% in 2018, both times against Democratic challenger Baird Welch-Collins.
How voter registrations changed since 2022
As of Nov. 1 of this year, New London, Montville, Waterford, Stonington, East Lyme, Old Lyme, Lyme, Ledyard, North Stonington, Norwich, Groton and Salem had a combined 137,501 active registered voters. In 2018, those same towns had 9,671 fewer registered voters, according to numbers compiled by the Secretary of the State’s office.
Both years, the number of active registered Democratic voters combined ― 46,472 in 2022 and 43,884 in 2018 ― dwarfed the Republican totals ― 27,439 in 2022 and 26,199 in 2018. Far more active voters were registered as unaffiliated in the region than for either of the major parties ― 60,914 in 2022 and 55,797 in 2018.
North Stonington is the only town in the region now where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, whereas this was also the case in Ledyard and Old Lyme in 2018. Of the 12 cities and towns The Day analyzed, only New London and Lyme have more registered Democrats than unaffiliated voters in 2022.
The largest increase in registered voters between 2018 and 2022 took place in Groton, with almost 3,000 more voters, and Norwich saw an increase of almost 2,000 voters. Only New London and North Stonington had fewer registered voters in 2022 than in 2018.
Groton added about 500 registered Republicans and more than 1,000 registered Democrats from 2018 to 2022. Norwich had by far the most people registered to minor parties, with more than 400 in both 2018 and 2022.
Local trends mirrored statewide totals, as active registered Democrats jumped by more than 20,000 while Republican numbers increased by only about 2,000. Minor party registration grew from 32,113 in 2018 to 36,017 this year, and unaffiliated voters increased by almost 50,000.
The total number of active voters in the state grew from 2,165,228 in 2018 to 2,237,016 in 2022.
No-excuse absentee and early voting have become hot-button issues in the state, mostly because Connecticut is one of only a handful of states without either one.
As a stopgap measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state legislature instituted what was essentially no-excuse absentee voting in the 2020 election. The move wound up creating record voter turnout and more than 650,000 absentee votes. Voters approved an early voting ballot question on Tuesday, but no-excuse absentee voting won’t be on the ballot until 2024.
Town clerks throughout the region said they were seeing an unusual number of absentee ballots coming in ahead of Tuesday’s election. Several election officials characterized the influx as equal to the number of absentee votes in a pre-COVID-19 presidential election.
The expansion of voting rights in 2020 has proven correct predictions from election officials, politicians and experts of increased absentee voting. Democrats still uniformly voted absentee more often than Republicans. The most absentee votes cast in 2018 — 896 in Groton — is low compared to most totals from towns in the region this year. Groton again had the most absentee votes in 2022, this time 1,490.
Stonington counted 826 absentee votes in 2018. That number jumped to 1,303 absentee ballots returned in 2022, according to statistics from the SOTS office released on Election Day. Salem counted 89 absentee votes in 2018. In 2022, that number grew to 151. Montville’s numbers more than doubled, going from 264 in 2018 to 605 in 2022.
The 2022 numbers are unofficial as they don’t include how many votes were counted ― just those sent in ― and more absentee votes were returned on Election Day after the SOTS numbers came out.
Old Lyme also saw a significant jump, from 363 in 2018 to 709 in 2022. East Lyme had one of the largest jumps in absentee voting, from 655 votes counted in 2018 to 1,325 returned in 2022.
While New London didn’t have a particularly large amount of absentee votes in 2022 — 572 — it had the starkest comparison of Democratic to Republican absentee voting: 410 to 52. Neither in 2018 nor in 2022 did Republicans vote absentee more than Democrats in the region. In 2022, Norwich had 671 absentee votes from Democrats compared to 150 from Republicans; Waterford had 596 Democratic to 204 Republican; and Stonington had 676 Democratic to 227 Republican.
Out of the 12 towns, 5,151 absentee votes were cast in 2018, compared to 9,389 and counting in 2022. The overall count in the state on Tuesday was 141,964 absentee votes cast in 2022, compared to 86,849 in 2018.