Connecticut voters head to polls Tuesday; officials fear low turnout

HARTFORD — Voters are heading to the polls Tuesday in all 169 cities and towns in what officials fear could be a low-turnout primary.

Republicans will be casting ballots for U.S. Senate and secretary of the state, while Democrats will be voting for state treasurer and secretary of the state, along with some seats in the state legislature.


Former Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who is not seeking reelection after 12 years in office, fears that three major factors could reduce the turnout to as low as 15% in the statewide primaries.

First, the ongoing heat wave that has constantly pushed temperatures into the 90s with high humidity does not encourage voters to leave their air-conditioned homes, she said.


“People don’t want to go out at all‚’’ Merrill said Monday. “It’s been what? A seven-day heat wave? This is not going to relent by tomorrow. ... You’re at the height of the summer. It’s hot.’'

Second, there is no marquee race for governor that would generate high interest at the polls. Every four years since 2006, Democrats or Republicans have had highly competitive, high-interest primaries with candidates like Democrats Ned Lamont and Dannel P. Malloy and Republicans like Tom Foley and Bob Stefanowski.

This year, Republicans Themis Klarides of Madison, Leora Levy of Greenwich and Peter Lumaj of Fairfield are battling for U.S. Senate, but there is no Senate primary on the Democratic side.

“There is no top of the ticket dragging people out to vote,’' Merrill said.

A third potential factor, particularly for the elderly, is the ongoing COVID pandemic.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t want to go to the polls because of COVID,’' Merrill said. “We forget about that.’'

Overall, 803,612 registered Democrats are eligible to vote Tuesday, as well as 455,735 Republicans, according to the latest numbers from the secretary of the state’s office. In November, 2.2 million voters will be eligible from more than 25 different political parties, including more than 20 lesser-known parties that have fewer than 30 registered voters each.


Regarding the weather, Lamont has extended the state’s extreme hot weather protocol until 8 p.m. on primary night. The protocol was originally scheduled to expire at 8 a.m. Tuesday, but the updated forecast pushed it back. The National Weather Service is now calling for the heat index to be near 100 degrees Tuesday with temperatures in the mid-90s.

“This is becoming a long-duration weather event as it appears this heat wave is going to continue for an eighth day,” Lamont said.

The primary races include:

In the three-way battle for state treasurer, Democrats will choose between attorney Erick A. Russell of New Haven, Greenwich hedge fund trader Dita Barghava and New Haven housing authority executive director Karen Dubois-Walton.

For secretary of the state, Democrats will choose between state Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk and New Haven public health director Maritza Bond.

Besides the U.S. Senate race, Republicans will cast ballots for longtime sales executive Dominic Rapini of Branford or state Rep. Terrie E. Wood of Darien for secretary of the state.


In Simsbury, Democrats Eric Wellman and Melissa Osborne are battling in a primary to fill the seat of outgoing state Rep. John Hampton, who did not seek reelection. The winner will run against Republican Mike Paine in the November general election.

In West Haven, state Rep. Trenee McGee is running against challenger Joe Miller in the Democratic primary.

Christopher Keating can be reached at