More than three-quarters of Weston’s registered Republicans and Democrats didn’t bother to vote in last Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primaries. But who could blame them?
It is August, after all. And as we all know, it is assumed around here that most people are out of town this time of year, enjoying a nice breeze near a beach or in the mountains — with the thoughts of party politics left snugly back here in Weston.
So we could look at Tuesday’s turnout of 22.2% of the 4,064 registered Republicans and Democrats as impressive. After all, this is a big improvement over the 15% turnout we saw during Connecticut’s Republican presidential preference primary in April.
It could also be looked at as a waste of time, money and even democracy. Why does Connecticut have to hold two separate primaries during presidential years? Why does the state make municipalities spend all this money on a process for which so few turn out?
Years ago, the state decided the old September primaries did not leave enough time for the winners before the November election. That is reasonable. But August does not leave enough residents around to participate in their party’s primary.
The presidential primary turnout in April was so low because it was already assumed that Mitt Romney was going to get the GOP’s nomination, which he did. If the presidential primary was held with state and other federal office primaries, it would certainly increase the interest and turnout for both — particularly if the race for the presidential nomination was still up in the air, as it was in 2008. This would mean having to push the state conventions to the beginning of the year; but it would also mean towns such as Weston would only have to hold one primary this year. And that would save some money.
In non-presidential years, it would still make more sense to push the state conventions a bit earlier, then hold primaries in the spring or even as late as June, before school gets out, when the public is more engaged than it is during the summer. And, would give the winners more time to prepare for the November election. It would make the money spent to staff polling locations, print ballots and other costs more worth it.
Participation is what makes democracy better. But the state has a responsibility to make participation more appealing than a summer-time hassle. —J.F.