From the Crow's Nest / Ed Chrostowski
Minus primary role, voters are secondary
Published 1:08 am, Friday, August 6, 2010
Within the next week, Connecticut voters will determine who is eligible to run for governor and for the United States senate.
To be more precise, only a fraction of the almost 2 million voters in the state will make that determination. The rest are not registered with either major political party and thus ineligible to vote in the Aug. 10 primaries that will nominate the candidates.
The election in November certainly is of over-riding importance, but the choices then will be limited to selections that will have been made in the primaries by only registered Republicans and Democrats. In effect, voters who do not participate in the primaries will have secondary roles in the election. Their electoral franchise is reduced to passing judgment on decisions to be made by others on Aug. 10.
Numbers in the office of Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz tell a compelling story. According to the latest official count, there are 739,224 registered Democrats in Connecticut, 407,510 Republicans and 837,260 "unaffiliated voters." The tally also shows that the GOP and Democrats, outnumbered by unaffiliated voters, are failing to grow their parties by enrolling more members, which is supposed to be their major function.
All of the rest of Connecticut's 1,995,621 registered voters -- about 11,500 of them -- are members of third parties ranging from the comparatively viable Green Party and Libertarian Party to such nominal groups as "The Party for Norwich" with a membership of one.
That means about 42 percent of Connecticut voters will have no say in who is to run for the state's top offices. Furthermore, it's relevant that the voter turn-out was less than 30 percent for Connecticut primaries in 2008, when the presidential candidates were at stake and interest was supposedly at an all-time high. If that lackluster performance by voters is repeated on Aug. 10, about 250,000 people will have decided who will be in the running for governor, senator and various state offices.
Campaigns in the primary preliminaries indicate close races between Tom Foley, Michael Fedele and Oz Griebel for the Republican gubernatorial nomination while Dannell Malloy and Ned Lamont vie for the Democratic nod. The senatorial candidacy is not as closely contested, but Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff are reportedly closing in a bit on the pace-setter, Linda McMahon, in the GOP race. Over on the Democratic side, Dick Blumenthal appears to have it wrapped up.
But each of the aspirants has attracted strident supporters who will be disappointed if their favorites don't make it to the November ballot because they lost in the August primary. What a pity that many of those devotees won't be able to provide that support where it counts most, at the polls, because they are ineligible to vote in the primaries!
The decision by voters to remain "unaffiliated" always has confounded politicians. These voters used to call themselves "independents" as though they were above the fray in partisan politics. In reality, however, they always have been and still are "dependents" because they rely on others to decide which of all the aspirants will become official candidates in the election. Thus, their options are laid out for them by others.
What does "independence" gain for unaffiliated voters? Nothing really. Joining a political party isn't like taking a loyalty oath. All voters are still free to make whatever choices they want at the polls. Nor are unaffiliated voters spared the barrage of campaign mailings. In fact, they may get even more as candidates recognize their "swing votes."
Members of third parties are practically disenfranchised as well. They can't vote in primaries except in the unlikely event that they have one of their own. And it would take a miracle for their candidates to qualify for any of the campaign funds from the Citizen Election Program. At least, however, there is a purpose in their existence, such as calling attention to a particular philosophy.
But there is still time for the unaffiliated to get in on the primary action and have some voice in deciding who will run in the November election. All they need to do is hustle on down to the registrars' office in their town halls before noon Monday, Aug. 9, to enroll in one of the major political parties.