A progressive voting reform typically opposed by conservatives helped one Republican candidate eke out a 2-vote victory in his election this month.
Last year, Connecticut became the 11th state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow Election Day registration (EDR) after Democrats overcame Republican opposition to pass legislation permitting citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election Day. That law went into effect for the first time in municipal elections this month.
The reasoning was simple. In 2012, the deadline to register was one week before the presidential election (though an extra grace day was given because of Hurricane Sandy). As a result, anyone who only started paying attention to the election in the final week — the point at which advertising and media coverage reaches its apex — found themselves up a proverbial creek with no voter registration form. This deadline was one of that factors that led Connecticut, a wealthy and highly educated state, to rank 21st in overall turnout in 2012 with just 61 percent of Nutmeg State voters casting a ballot.
That impact was felt acutely in a local race this month, where a Republican candidate edged the Democratic incumbent for first selectman of Griswold by two votes. Kevin Skulczyck, the GOPer, finished with 854 votes in the race, narrowly topping current First Selectman Philip Anthony (D) who had 852 votes.
Skulczyck’s victory was attributable to EDR; at least 20 votes he tallied were from voters who registered on Election Day, as opposed to just 3 EDR votes for his opponent. The Republican’s teenage son, Jacob, encouraged his friends to take advantage of EDR and got as many as 12 students to register and vote. Among the groups of people that EDR benefits the most is young people, many of whom are participating in their first election and may not be aware of deadlines to register.
Though conservatives have generally opposed voting reforms like EDR that encourage participation — they even went so far as to repeal EDR in North Carolina this year — Skulczyck can attest that Republicans have just as much to gain by more Americans voting as Democrats do.