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Biden and Trump Win CT Primaries; Many ‘Uncommitted’ Votes

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Tom and Lorna Dwyer of West Hartford cast their votes for the presidential primary. Credit: Shahrzad Rasekh / CT Mirror
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Mark Pazniokas and Lisa Hagen/ CT Mirror

Connecticut’s presidential primary was moved up weeks earlier than previous election cycles, but not early enough to draw the interest of many voters well aware that President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump had already clinched their parties’ nominations. With more than 95% of the precincts reporting, Biden won 85% of Democratic votes and Trump won 78% of Republican votes Tuesday, identical to the results in 2020, when the Connecticut primary also came after both men already were the presumptive nominees. The turnout was less than 10%.

The Associated Press called both races for Biden and Trump minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Connecticut was one of four states holding primaries, along with neighboring states New York and Rhode Island as well as Wisconsin. Dissent among Democrats in Connecticut was registered by the 11% of voters who cast votes for uncommitted delegates. On the Republican side, displeasure with Trump was shown primarily by the 14% of the vote cast for Nikki Haley, who suspended her campaign a month ago.

State leaders were hoping Connecticut would have more influence in presidential primaries than it has in the past decade. Since 2012, Connecticut held its primary on the last Tuesday in April, with the exception of 2020, when it was postponed until August due to the pandemic. Still, the primaries were a gentle test for Connecticut’s first foray into in-person early voting, where people could cast their vote early without an excuse. There were nearly 18,000 votes cast ahead of Tuesday, according to the Secretary of the State.

“Early voting, a historic first for Connecticut,” said Stephanie Thomas, the secretary of the state. “Pretty low turnout in general, but I thought it was a resounding success. We had over 17,000 people come and vote early across the state.” “This isn’t a competitive primary, so a lot of people have been voting for different reasons,” Thomas said. “Some people think it’s important to vote in every election, as I do. Some wanted to be a part of history. Some towns reported having a line on the first day of early voting.” And for others, it was a protest vote — a way to oppose the major party candidates by casting a ballot for other candidates who either dropped out or are polling low or voting for an “uncommitted” slate.

With no major surprises, the biggest question mark of the night was how many in Connecticut would vote uncommitted or for a candidate not named Biden or Trump, who both have low approval ratings.Given the lack of influence in this year’s primary season, Connecticut officials hope to revisit moving it up much earlier in the calendar like they did in the 2000s.

But this year, voters will once again get a Biden-Trump matchup. Democrats have carried Connecticut in every general election since Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992.

The debut of early voting in Connecticut

A new era of ballot access began at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26, the first minute of early voting in the state. Connecticut was one of the last four states that had resisted the trend toward in-person voting ahead of Election Day. There were four days of early voting for the presidential primary: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Municipal buildings were closed on Good Friday. With the nominations settled, the parties made little effort to publicize the early voting — or the primaries.

There will be seven days of early voting for any state, legislative or congressional primaries on Aug. 13, and 14 days before the general election in November. Thomas said she will debrief local election officials about early voting in a conference call on Wednesday. The state has provided only $5 million for the added expense of early voting, about half the projected cost.

Comptroller Sean Scanlon, who co-chaired the Biden campaign in Connecticut in 2020, said a low-turnout Tuesday primary would signify nothing about the interest of the electorate in the general election rematch between Biden and Trump. “I don’t think this primary is particularly important to a lot of people,” Scanlon said. “But the November election is, and I think that people are seeing the clear choice that they face and that we face as a country today. And that choice in my mind couldn’t be clearer. And I think that even for people who don’t show up to vote today, that’s not an indication that they’re not going to show up in November.”