Voter turnout could reach 90 percent

Staff writer, CT Post

Article Last Updated: 11/04/2008 11:08:15 AM EST

HARTFORD -- Nearly 301,000 new voters will be eligible to vote today, and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said Monday that anyone planning to vote should bring photo identification with them to the polls.

Even experienced voters will be asked to show some form of ID, although those without will be allowed to fill out forms attesting to their identity.

Bysiewicz, in a news conference in the Capitol, said she expects a 90 percent turnout from the state's 2,097,635 registered voters, more than 134,000 of whom registered in October.

The new registration statistics indicate a reduction of about 10,000 Republicans in southwestern Connecticut's 4th Congressional District since the 2004 election. But there were 20,000 more Democrats and 18,000 more unaffiliated voters during that same time frame.

Nancy DiNardo, of Trumbull, chairwoman of the Democratic State Central Committee, said the numbers bode well for her party's candidates for General Assembly seats, as well as Jim Himes' attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, after 21 years.

But Chris Healy, the GOP State Central Committee chairman, said Monday that just because Democrats seem to have reaped the benefits of additional voter registrations, doesn't mean they are assured across-the-board victories today.

"The party out of power usually does better during open voter registration," Healy said in an interview outside the Capitol. "I give the Democrats credit. But signing up and showing up are different matters."

DiNardo said Monday that she's heard from town clerks throughout the state who note an increase in absentee ballots arriving in the mail in recent days.

"I can't believe people have decided to register and not vote," DiNardo said. "The primary had record numbers. There's still a great deal of enthusiasm in Connecticut."

Statewide, there are now 779,784 eligible Democrats, 427,020 Republicans and 883,274 unaffiliated voters, plus hundreds of minor-party members.

Bysiewicz said that even those who missed the Oct. 28 registration deadline will be able to cast presidential ballots by bringing proof of their address to their local town clerks' offices.

Bysiewicz's office has recruited 100 Housatonic Community College students to spend the day as poll workers in Bridgeport.

She recommended that voters go to the polls between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., when they are least busy. She anticipates the peak periods will be between 6 and 10 a.m. and between 4 and 8 p.m.

Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote, no matter how long it takes.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal made that formal legal opinion Monday in response to a request from state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, and Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairmen of the legislative Judiciary Committee, who raised questions about voting hours and procedures for voting by people who are physically incapacitated.

"In this historic election -- promising unparalleled voter turnout -- voters should know the lengths and limits of their voting rights," Blumenthal said .

"No matter the turnout, no matter how long the lines, the law limits the time parameters of our polls," Blumenthal said. "Voters must plan ahead -- and come early -- to ensure that their vote is cast in this election."

And, he added, as the result of a two-year-old state law, elderly or handicapped people who find standing up in line too strenuous may be declared "temporarily incapacitated" by local police or polling officials who can immediately present them with ballots to fill out.

"We think it's going to be the most-important election we've seen in our country since 1932," Bysiewicz said. "I can say that we are ready and we think voters are ready to cast their ballots as well."

Bysiewicz said her office has set up a "rapid-response team" to address issues that arise among the 769 statewide polling places and that the State Elections Enforcement Commission has set up a toll-free number for complaints. That number is 1-866-733-2463.

Comparison of voter registration totals for the 4th District 2004 Republicans: 114,878 Democrats: 127,071 Unaffiliated: 144,196 2008 Republicans: 104,804 Democrats: 147,526 Unaffiliated: 162,548.