HARTFORD, Conn.—Voter turnout is expected to be relatively low for Connecticut's summertime primaries Tuesday, but there's no shortage of candidates on the ballot.
Major party candidate are battling for the right to represent their party in the November general election in numerous races, including U.S. Senate, four of the state's five congressional districts, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, secretary of the state, General Assembly and judge of probate.
In total, there are 44 primary races -- 21 Republican and 23 Democratic, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said. That's the highest number in recent memory.
"I do believe we've not had so many open seats in decades," she said. "We have open seats for Senate, governor, almost all the constitutional offices except treasurer. It's an amazing thing to have so many races going on."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell's decision to not seek re-election helped spur a large number of candidates. Also, the decision by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Christopher Dodd leaves the attorney general's job open to non-incumbent candidates for the first time in 20 years.
And the offices held by Comptroller Nancy Wyman, a candidate for lieutenant governor, and Bysiewicz, who is not seeking re-election after the state Supreme Court ended her campaign for attorney general, also are open to non-incumbents for the first time since the 1990s.
Another reason for the increased primary day activity is the large number of candidates for judge of probate. State legislators last year reduced to 54 from 117 the number of probate districts, which are best known for settling estates and appointing guardians for children and adults who can't take care of themselves.
Many incumbent judges are challenging each another in primaries, Bysiewicz. Those races -- and some contentious primaries for legislative seats in New Haven and Hartford -- could help drive turnout on Tuesday, she said.
With the TV and mailboxes filled with political ads it's difficult for candidates to be noticed in the din.
"Getting your voice heard is not the easiest thing to do, I'll be the first to admit it," said Dan Malloy, the endorsed Democratic candidate for governor who is in a primary battle with Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. "There's a lot of noise out there right now and that's why we're doing the best we can."
Besides the noise, indecision is high among Democratic and Republican voters.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released last week showed 21 percent of likely GOP voters remain undecided, and 62 percent of those who picked one of the three candidates -- Tom Foley, Mike Fedele or Oz Griebel -- said they might change their minds before the primary. Meanwhile, about 14 percent of likely Democratic voters are undecided and 43 percent who chose a candidate in the survey said they could change their minds.
"It is unusual to see that high number of people who say they could change their minds when we're less than a week before the primary," said Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, adding how there's probably more uncertainty among the Republican voters because the three candidates are not as well known as the Democrats.
Bysiewicz predicts turnout will be lower,compared to past years, when voters were motivated by national politics. In 2006, primary turnout was 43 percent. That was when Lamont challenged Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary, seen by many voters as a referendum on the war in Iraq and President George Bush's policies. While Lamont, now in a primary with fellow Democrat Dan Malloy for governor, won the primary, he later lost in the general election to Lieberman, who ran as an independent.
In 2008, turnout for the Democratic presidential primary was 53 percent. That's when now-President Barack Obama faced Hillary Clinton, now the U.S. Secretary of State.
Some younger voters, however, will be added to the rolls. Voters who are 17 and turn 18 by Election Day may vote in the primary. Bysiewicz said 1,965 registered as of Aug. 1.
Voters have until Monday to register in person at their local town offices.
As of Aug. 2, of the state's nearly 2 million voters, there were 740,542 registered Democrats, 409,233 registered Republicans and 835,277 unaffiliated voters. Unaffiliated voters are not allowed to vote in the party primaries.
Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters are encouraged to bring ID.
Associated Press Writer Everton Bailey Jr. contributed to this report.