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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    With outcomes assured, Primary Day marked by meager turnout

    Glen Reeves marks his Primary Day election ballot Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Rose City Senior Center. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Carolyn Russo marks her primary election ballot while her husband, Bob Russo, looks over his ballot before taking his turn at the voting booth Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at East Lyme High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Esteban Garcia, right, shares a laugh with Ballot Clerk Emma Clausen, left, after receiving his Primary Election ballot Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in the polling station located at East Lyme High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Marilyn Brownell, left, shares a laugh with Ballot Clerk Mary Smith on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, after receiving an “I Voted” sticker during Primary Day voting at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Connecticut voters arrived at the polls Tuesday with a commitment to exercising their right to vote despite scant hope of influencing the outcome nationwide.

    A move by lawmakers last year to push up the presidential primary by four weeks was too little, too late: the field had already been narrowed to President Joe Biden for the Democrats and former President Donald J. Trump for the Republicans.

    Voters in 32 states, including 15 on Super Tuesday at the beginning of this month, had their say before those in Connecticut could be heard. The three other candidates listed on the Connecticut ballot for each party had already dropped out of the race.

    Ballots for both parties included an “uncommitted” option.

    Democrat Carol Korineck of East Lyme voted in the early afternoon at the high school, where she lamented the predetermined outcome that left voters feeling like their votes didn’t count. But she, like others who came out Tuesday, was philosophical about it.

    “It’s our right to vote, so even though the candidates are already decided, I’m coming to cast my vote anyway,” she said.

    She was one of 220 local voters who by 1 p.m. Tuesday had cast their Primary Day ballots in the town’s three polling locations. That was 2.9% of eligible voters. Final turnout numbers were unavailable at press time.

    “I hope Joe Biden wins and democracy continues,” Korineck said.

    East Lyme voting officials said the state’s inaugural early voting period, held on four days over the past week, brought in 117 of the town’s 4,547 registered Democrats and 47 of 3,072 registered Republicans, or about 2.15% of eligible voters.

    In Preston, Republican George Mattern was undeterred by the predetermined outcome of the primary process at this point.

    “I just like to show there are Republicans in this state who care about what’s going on,” he said.

    Mattern, who voted for Trump, said his key issues are immigration and the economy.

    The state presidential preference primary determines how delegates to each party’s convention this summer will vote. There are 60 delegates at stake for the Democrats and 28 at stake for the Republicans, according to the Associated Press.

    Preston Republican moderator Claire Stadtmueller around 5:30 p.m. said 149 primary votes had been cast. There were 37 votes cast during the four-day early voting period, 1 absentee ballot and 111 Primary Day votes at that point.

    Based on 945 registered Republicans and 800 registered Democrats, overall turnout two-and-a-half hours before the polls closed was 8.4%. Primary Day accounted for 6.3%, and early voting for 2.1%.

    She estimated early voting cost about $2,360 to pay four workers to work 10 a.m.-6 p.m. over four days.

    Early voting will be available seven days ahead of down ballot primaries this summer, which will include any contested congressional or state legislative races. The early voting period in advance of the November election will last 14 days.

    “There’s lots more voting days,” she said.

    The state law that authorized early voting included $10,500 for every city and town, regardless of size, to help defray costs of the new initiative through the end of this year.

    In New London, Democratic Registrar of Voters Rich Martin at 7:30 p.m. counted about 400 voters coming through the doors of the city’s three polling places. That put turnout at approximately 4.5% a half hour before closing time.

    He said about 50 ballots were cast in-person during the early voting period and about another 50 through absentee ballots.

    Martin echoed concerns expressed by voting officials in East Lyme that the Office of the Secretary of the State had not done much to get the word out about early voting. But he said he expects that to change by the time the election rolls around in November.

    He described early voting this time around as a way to get used to the new system.

    “It went smoothly and the process works,” he said.

    Norwich saw a late surge in voter turnout that brought the overall voter turnout to nearly 10% of the approximately 10,000 registered major party voters, Republican Registrar Dianne Slopak said. The number includes the 87 in person early voters and 61 mail-in absentee ballots.

    Norwich Democratic Registrar Kate Ryan Larkin around 6:30 had said turnout was about 1%.

    Norwich has six voting precincts, and the two largest ones, at the Rose City Senior Center and Beth Jacob Synagogue, topped 100 voters Tuesday evening. The precinct at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church had reached 90 voters shortly after 6 p.m.

    Over the four days of early voting, 87 Norwich voters cast ballots in the new system ― some of them City Hall staff and election officials trying out the new system.

    Ryan Larkin said the in-person early voting was “very expensive” for a primary that is essentially already decided.

    “We’ll be doing this for 14 days in fall,” Ryan Larkin said. “That one should be busier.”

    Town-by-town results will be available by clicking the Election 2024 logo at the top of our page or going to www.theday.com/section/election2024/.

    Day Staff Writer Claire Bessette contributed to this report.

    e.regan@theday.com

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