August presidential primary in Darien gets low turnout
After the state’s presidential primary was postponed from April to August, some residents were confused about the need to hold the vote, according to Darien Republican Registrar of Voters John Visi.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the presidential primary was rescheduled twice — initially it was rescheduled from April to June. It was then rescheduled to Aug. 11 by executive order of Gov. Ned Lamont.
With President Donald Trump, a Republican, and former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, the presumptive nominees for their parties for the November election, Visi said many didn’t bother to cast votes.
Three Darien voters at the polls who didn’t want to be named shared their intentions.
“Biden all the way,” said one woman.
“Biden — it’s time for a change,” said a male voter.
A third voter said he was casting a vote for Trump.
Out of the 5,428 registered Republicans in Darien, 15 percent voted in the primary. Trump was the Republican winner in town with 505 votes, with 315 votes from absentee ballots. California businessman Rocky De La Fuente received 90 votes, 78 of which were absentee ballots. Uncommitted received 219 votes, with 195 absentee ballots.
Of the 3,426 registered Democrats in Darien, 37 percent voted. Biden was the Democratic winner in town with 1,168 votes, with 945 votes from absentee ballots. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont received 73 votes, 58 of which were absentee. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii received nine votes, and there were eight votes for uncommitted.
The town’s 4,950 unaffiliated voters were not eligible to vote in the closed primary.
Several residents called the registars’ office to ask why a primary was even being held.
“People were confused, but it is a constitutional right to be on the ballot. The average citizen didn’t understand,” Visi said of the last-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Adding to the confusion was that Biden announced his running mate, Kamala Harris, as voters in the state were still heading to the polls, Visi said. He said those who showed up to vote mentioned that during the process.
“If it had been in April, like it was supposed to be, people wouldn’t have questioned it,” he said.
In March, De La Fuente remained adamant in an statement that he would remain on the primary ballots even if Trump had the nomination sealed up.
“The longer Republican voters continue making Trump the face of their party, the worse they’ll do in future elections and the longer it will take for America to regain lost social and economic ground,” De La Fuente said. “A healthier and more viable party in the long run requires a better nominee.”
On the Democratic side, Sanders dropped out of the race earlier this year but remained on the primary ballot. Sanders and fellow candidate Andrew Yang sued New York after that state canceled its primary. In early May, a judge agreed and ordered New York to reinstate its primary and restore Sanders and other presidential candidates to the ballot. Biden received nearly 68 percent of New York’s primary vote. New York canceled its Republican presidential primary.
Darien’s primary cost the town $10,000.
Visi noted there were “a lot more absentee votes” in the primary because of the pandemic. He also said the turnout was low for a presidential primary.
August primaries turn out is traditionally low, Visi said. But this particular primary was even more challenging.
“I really think people took a look at the ballot and thought, ‘Why are we doing this?’” he said.
The Democrats’ National Convention is Aug. 17 to 20. Find out more information here.
The Republican National Convention is Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Find out more information here.
More information about Darien’s elections and voting process is available at the registrars’ page at DarienCT.gov.
Additional reporting by Greg Marku.