Too Close to Call in Connecticut?

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every day at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Colin McEnroe, host of the The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR and political columnist for the Hartford Courant, talked about the uncertain results of the Connecticut governor's race and the latest news on the vote count.

It remains unclear who will be the next governor of Connecticut. The latest results show Democrat Dan Malloy with a 5,000 vote lead over Republican Tom Foley, but discrepancies among announced results, ballot issues, and Foley's refusal to concede the election have put the possibility of a recount in play.

The drama of this political confusion overshadows the real irregularity in state election, says Colin McEnroe. Namely, this one was really close.

Like everywhere else, Connecticut had an unusually large number of Republican votes this year. Connecticut is so overwhelmingly top-heavy with Democrats in terms of registration numbers, that those votes weren’t enough to tip the elections…We haven't had this close a gubernatorial election in more than 50 years.

In a situation where every vote was crucial, a ballot shortage in the city of Bridgeport didn't help anybody. In Connecticut, individual registrars in each town decide how many ballots to have on hand for Election Day. Expecting low turnout, Bridgeport's registrar only ordered about 21,000 ballots for 69,000 registered voters. Come November 2nd, the citizens of Bridgeport turned out in much higher numbers than anticipated. But without enough ballots for everyone, would-be voters were turned away from polling sites, only to be invited back later once more ballots had been acquired and voting hours extended.

Why the surprisingly high turnout? According to McEnroe:

It’s kind of Barack Obama’s fault. He turned up in Bridgeport on the Sunday before the election and he really jazzed people up…Suddenly it was 2008 again in Bridgeport, so they got a much bigger turnout than anyone expected.

Whoever the governor-elect turns out to be, McEnroe says that they will have to get over the excitement of winning quickly. Connecticut is facing a massive deficit, and both candidates' campaign rhetoric was light on detail about their plans to fix the state.

The government’s effectively broke. There isn’t really enough money to do anything. It’s hard to know because they weren’t very specific in their debates about exactly what they would do. That’s the problem that’s got to get solved first, and there isn’t a painless or bloodless solution to that problem, regardless of what they told us in their debates or commercials.

Listen to the entire segment on The Brian Lehrer Show.