Middletown poll workers outnumbered voters in Tuesday's Republican Primary in which the presumptive GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney sailed to victory.
Romney was declared the unofficial winner before 8:30 p.m. by the Associated Press, winning five New England states, including Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The town clerk's tabulations took a bit longer. By 9 p.m., the unofficial word was Romney won, "by a lot," according to Sandra Russo-Driska. In all, 496 Republicans — or 14.5 percent — cast a vote: 274 for Romney, 94 for Ron Paul, 78 for Newt Gingrich, 47 for Rick Santorum and 3 for "uncommitted."
Absolutely no one voted at Snow School's 8th District.
See how each district broke down in the attached pdf.
A lot of poll workers caught up on some reading Tuesday. That's not to say they weren't working or eager for the city's 3,419 registered Republicans to cast their at any of Middletown's 14 districts — it's just that turnout was so low.
By noon, District 9 at led the polling locations in votes cast, according to the registrar of voters office — pulling in 24. In total, six hours into primary voting, 158 residents had run their ballots through the machines. By 3 p.m., said the city's total votes were 187 — or 5.47 percent of Republicans.
"We normally don’t do a big push for the primary," said Chair Ken McClellan, who cast his vote late in the afternoon. "We’ll remind people, but, given the large lead the Romney has at this point, I suspect that the turnout will be low. I’ve seen reports from New York and Delaware that turnout has been very low."
Stephen Gionfriddo, husband of the registrar, was moderator at Middletown High School’s 3rd and 6th Districts. By 12:40 p.m., he had “The Innocent” by David Balducci cracked open. “It’s dreadfully slow,” Gionfriddo said. “I mean there’s not really a lot of interest — once [Rick] Santorum dropped out — in Connecticut.”
“Gingrich is still in but he hasn’t put money into Connecticut,” Gionfriddo said. “Even Romney’s wife made an appearance [today at the Connecticut Republicans’ annual Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford], but there was no communication, no mailings.”
He says the state’s primary is too late this year. “I remember Reagan and Ford in 1976. They went right to the convention. That’s back when the primary really meant something.”
So few voters caused Gionfriddo to ruminate about other countries whose voting rights are much more sacred. “It’s kind of a shame to see everything taken for granted and nobody can be bothered.”
Over at Spencer School shortly afterward, moderator Ed Dypa reported 6 votes out of 47 for the 2nd District and 8 out of 130 for the 13th District. He and Tony Gaunichau, who together have worked the polls for nearly 40 years, had wondered at the lack of foot traffic.
“It’s most likely people think Romney is a shoo-in type of thing,” Dypa said. “I think people see all these primaries beforehand and see such a large edge like Romney has and figure, ‘this is it.’”
Normally, there’s a rush between 6 and 8 a.m., Dypa said, as a poll worker yelled to the eight others in the gymnasium, not one a voter, “seven hours!” This year, three Republicans showed up at Spencer during the first two hours.
At 3 p.m., Macdonough School had 6 votes registered on its ballot machine, in the 1st District, which has about 189 Republicans. “As a moderator for the past 32 years, I would say this is pathetic,” Earle V. Roberts said. “In part I blame the media. In the primaries in the last 30 years [in Middletown], voter registration is going higher.”
“The primary is not public enough,” agreed Juan Montalvo. Both men say the media failed to get the word out to Republican voters that today is Connecticut’s primary day. “The media can be instrumental,” Roberts said.
It also can mislead voters, Roberts said. He pointed to a Hartford Courant story from Monday, that gave Republicans the impression that the primary was already clinched. "With candidates dropping out or sharply cutting back their campaigns, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is expected to cruise to victory Tuesday in Connecticut's presidential primary," the story reads.
“It’s sad, when in Iraq and other third-world countries, people dipping their finger in ink [to vote] will be shot for it,” Roberts said. “And the registrar,” who he thinks is paid to encourage voting, “doesn’t do enough of what she should do.”
Montalvo puts the blame on the Secretary of the State. “I think the state should be obligated to inform people primary day is so-and-so.”
Roberts said the long lead-up to the GOP primary on the national level is exhausting to primary voters. “After two, three, four years of promises, after a while even I get sick of it.” He said perhaps England and other such countries who only primary for 60 days total should be looked up to.
Here in Middletown, “We had way too many candidates that hung on for way too long,” Montalvo said.