The United States’ 2020 presidential election was unlike any other voting year in recent history. An unstable political environment, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sparking the re-emergence of #BlackLivesMatter and its urgent call to action of reforming the criminal justice system – all coupled by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an unprecedented year of civic engagement across the country. This was no less the case in Bridgeport, where the city experienced historic highs of voter turnout, absentee ballots, and election day registration rates. In 2021, BCAC examines 2016 to 2020 election comparisons, who Bridgeport voted for, and the residents by neighborhood who make up the city’s richly diverse and resilient voting population.

HIGH VOTING INCREASES FOR BRIDGEPORT
FIGURE 1. VOTING STATISTICS FOR BRIDGEPORT

From 2016 to 2020, the city of Bridgeport recorded substantial increases from the number of registered voters to election day registrations. One notable increase in particular, the number of absentee ballots, can be explained by the presence of COVID-19 and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations of social distancing. Historically limited to select populations such as those who are overseas actively serving in the armed forces or people who are out of town during all hours of voting on Election Day, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily expanded Connecticut state law to allow any resident – regardless of reason – the ability to vote via an absentee ballot.

BRIDGEPORT OUTPACES CT’S FOUR OTHER MOST POPULUS CITIES BY VOTER TURNOUT INCREASES
FIGURES 2 & 3.
VOTING STATISTICS FOR CT’S FIVE LARGEST CITIES

In 2020, 72% of registered Bridgeport voters cast their ballots in the November presidential election – the highest voter turnout rate in over a decade. From 2016 to 2020, Bridgeport recorded the highest increase in voter turnout percentage out of CT’s five largest cities at 27%. Overall, CT grew their voter turnout by 4%.

…AND EVERY OTHER CITY OR TOWN IN CT
FIGURE 4. TURNOUT RATES FOR CT CITIES WITH REGISTERED VOTERS GREATER THAN 30,000

Bridgeport’s 27% rise in voter turnout from 2016 to 2020 was not only the highest upsurge in turnout out of CT’s five most populated cities, but the highest increase out of any city or town in Connecticut.

Despite this increase, Bridgeport chronicled the lowest 2020 voter turnout percentage overall in Fairfield County (72%). It is worth noting that 91% of Fairfield County towns have registered voters below 50,000 individuals while Bridgeport has the highest number of registered voters in Fairfield County at 77,560. Figure 4 illustrates voter turnout increases and decreases from 2016 to 2020 only by cities and towns in Connecticut with 30,000 or more registered resident voters for a more accurate comparison of turnout rates.

72%

OF REGISTERED BRIDGEPORT VOTERS CAST THEIR BALLOTS IN THE NOVEMBER 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – THE HIGHEST VOTER TURNOUT RATE IN BRIDGEPORT IN OVER A DECADE.

27%
INCREASE IN BRIDGEPORT’S
VOTER TURNOUT

FROM

2016 - 2020

WAS THE HIGHEST INCREASE OUT OF ANY CITY OR TOWN IN CONNECTICUT.

It was September of 2020 and just weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Carmen A. Nieves, Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) alumnus and facilitator, kept hearing that many of her friends, family and neighbors from Bridgeport and beyond were not planning to vote in the upcoming election.

Many believed that their vote wouldn’t make a difference, neither candidate was worth voting for, and they could not change the results of the election. Carmen didn’t accept this and was determined to find ways to encourage as many people as possible to GET OUT and VOTE.

CARMEN A. NIEVES STANDS IN FRONT OF THE VIRTUAL HOPE PHOTOBOOTH
The Bennett Family Inspires #HopeVote Campaign

On a walk by the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport, CT, she stumbled upon a powerful mural of the word “HOPE” by artist Jason Naylor. Inspired, she jumpstarted a social media campaign using the hashtag #HopeVote based on her personal belief that “I have hope, so I am going to vote.” Carmen collaborated with a local photographer to turn the HOPE mural into “The Absolutely Fabulous Photo Booth.’’ People texted a photo of themselves to the “photo booth” and then received a photo back with a #HopeVote filter and border to share on social media.

By linking voting with both hope and change, she was able to demonstrate the power of voting and the importance of civic engagement. To use her words: “If you don’t like the way things are, then VOTE. If you don’t like the way things are, then ENGAGE.” Carmen’s statement is backed by data, which shows that higher levels of civic participation leads to a myriad of positive impact on both individual and community levels. Through civic engagement, stronger relationships are built, education is improved and people experience better health and mental health, and ultimately higher overall well-being.

Carmen went a step further and sought out the support of the National Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) with hopes of spreading the campaign message across the entire country. The #HopeVote campaign certainly made an impact...Bridgeport had the greatest increase in voter turnout in the State of Connecticut which demonstrates that EVERY VOTE COUNTS! The time is now to stay engaged, make your voice count, and create positive change in our community on the issues that impact children and families EVERYDAY!

Bridgeport as a whole recorded substantial increases in voter turnout from 2016 to 2020, but what does this look like when broken down by neighborhood? Figures 5 (2016 rates) and 6 (2020 rates) illustrate the disaggregation of voter turnout, absentee ballots, and in-person ballot rates by Bridgeport neighborhoods and zip codes.

BRIDGEPORT NEIGHBORHOODS RECORD SLIGHT VARIATIONS OF VOTER ENGAGEMENT
FIGURE 5.
MAP: 2016 PRESIDENTIAL VOTER TURNOUT, ABSENTEE BALLOT, AND IN-PERSON BALLOT RATES, BY BRIDGEPORT ZIP CODE. BAR GRAPH: 2016 PRESIDENTIAL VOTER TURNOUT, BY BRIDGEPORT NEIGHBORHOOD.
FIGURE 6.
MAP: 2020 PRESIDENTIAL VOTER TURNOUT, ABSENTEE BALLOT, AND IN-PERSON BALLOT RATES, BY BRIDGEPORT ZIP CODE. BAR GRAPH: 2020 PRESIDENTIAL VOTER TURNOUT, BY BRIDGEPORT NEIGHBORHOOD.

From 2016 to 2020, each Bridgeport neighborhood recorded increases in the number of individuals who voted either in-person or via an absentee ballot, except for the Upper East Side and Brooklawn/St. Vincent’s regions. The Black Rock area continued to turn out the highest number of voters in 2016 and 2020, while the South End held their standing as the region which recorded the lowest turnout numbers.

Although the majority of registered voters in each Bridgeport neighborhood voted in-person during the 2020 election, in-person voting declined by an average of 19% since 2016 for all neighborhoods while voting by absentee ballot increased an average of 378% for all neighborhoods.

It is also worth noting that in 2016, zero Bridgeport eligible voters registered to vote on Election Day, while in 2020, each neighborhood recorded several residents who registered as a same-day election voter.

CITY-WIDE, IN-PERSON VOTING

DECLINED

19%
WHILE ABSENTEE VOTING

INCREASED

378%
(2016-2020)
BRIDGEPORT’S FEDERAL OFFICE RACES HOST CLEAR WINNERS
FIGURE 7. BRIDGEPORT VOTER PERCENTAGES FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL AND CONGRESSIONAL OFFICES, 2020

Bridgeport overwhelmingly voted for the Biden/Harris ballot (79%) to win the 2020 presidency, while 19% voted for the Trump/Pence ballot. Bridgeport’s congressional race was similar; the majority of votes went to incumbent Jim Himes (80%) over any other candidate.

BRIDGEPORT OVERWHELMINGLY VOTES FOR ITS INCUMBENTS
FIGURE 8. BRIDGEPORT VOTING PERCENTAGES, SENATE, 2020
FIGURE 9. BRIDGEPORT VOTING PERCENTAGES, REPRESENTATIVES, 2020

Akin to the congressional race, Bridgeport recorded no upsets for its senate and representative seats; all winners were incumbents who earned at least 73% of the total votes placed.

“Civic engagement is the key to building a better community.” That’s the Planas family motto when it comes to civic engagement and raising their two sons, Manuel and Daniel. Both parents, Diana and Tito, were brought up to understand and value the importance of voting and the importance of having their voices heard.

So that’s why each year, rain or shine, Diana and Tito would wake the boys and take them off to the polls all before the first bell at school. As children, their participation extended to attaching an “I voted!” sticker to their shirt. As they got older, they began asking more questions about the candidates, the election process, and how they would be able to participate as adults. Their parents encouraged them to do their research on the candidates and cast votes for people not parties. As a family, they engaged in discussions about history and the importance of understanding how the decisions of individuals and groups of individuals brought us to where we are today and the impact of those actions that were made on the local, state and national level. In a few short months when Manuel turns 18, he will finally have the opportunity to make his voice heard and bring us into a better future by casting his first vote.

As the Planas family knows, voter engagement results in: higher levels of civic participation, improved mental and physical health, stronger social connectedness within the community, and ultimately, greater overall well-being. That’s why Diana and Tito have made it their life’s work. For them, voting is just the tip of the civic engagement iceberg! Tito has worked with the Bridgeport Public Schools for over twenty six years and has been a strong advocate for, and teacher of, the importance of civic engagement. Beyond what is taught in the curriculum, Tito encouraged voter registration and engagement wherever he could, and even brought voter registration officials to block parties in his neighborhood!

Diana’s experience began with the Child & Family Guidance Center and the parent leadership team at school. Her experience led her to RYASAP’s very own Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and Children’s Leadership Training Institute (CLTI) as the Coordinator. PLTI/CLTI is a multi-generational strategy to bolster parental involvement while promoting the lifelong health, safety & learning of children. The program integrates child development, leadership, and democracy skills into a parent curriculum which builds a network of civic leadership with the tools to create positive change within our communities.

VARYING RACIAL DEMOGRAPHIC DATA IN FIVE-YEAR AVERAGE
FIGURE 10. RACIAL DEMOGRAPHIC MAKEUP IN BRIDGEPORT, BY ZIP CODE, 2015-2019

In Figure 10, we have broken out all races of Bridgeport residents by zip code. Understanding the demographic makeup of Bridgeport residents can better enable us to provide more targeted social services and enhance the vision that zip code residents see for their neighborhood. Each zip code’s population consists of majority Hispanic and Latino residents (67%), except for 06606 and 06607 where Black or African American residents have the highest population counts.

43%

HISPANIC AND LATINO RESIDENTS
ARE BRIDGEPORT’S HIGHEST
ETHNIC POPULATION

HISPANIC AND LATINO BREAKOUTS ACROSS BRIDGEPORT, BY ZIP CODE
FIGURE 11. ETHNICAL BREAKDOWN OF HISPANIC RESIDENTS IN BRIDGEPORT, BY ZIP CODE

Because Bridgeport’s Hispanic and Latino population is so large, BCAC wanted to examine the specific ethnic background of our Hispanic residents. In each Bridgeport zip code area, the largest population of Hispanic residents are of Puerto Rican heritage, followed by a select variety of other Hispanic heritages (excluding Mexican and Cuban), as grouped together by the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.

RESIDENT NATIVITY BREAKOUTS ACROSS BRIDGEPORT, BY ZIP CODE
FIGURE 12. NATIVITY OF RESIDENTS IN BRIDGEPORT, BY ZIP CODE

Bridgeport has thousands of naturalized citizens who have immigrated from all over the world. Figure 12’s map illustrates the overall percentage of Bridgeport residents who have been naturalized compared to the total population of that zip code. Figure 12’s bar graph expands upon on the native continents and regions of naturalized Bridgeport residents by zip code. Latin America represents the highest number of emigrated Bridgeport residents in every zip code.

When Bridgeport votes, we actively flex our power as daring and concerned citizens. Bridgeport wants to be a city where diversity and equity are continually celebrated – where city funds are disinvested from antiquated systems in charge of handling violence to investments in community solutions, resources, and supports that holistically treat the cause and effect of violence – where everyone is safe to live and thrive.

When we vote, we activate these possibilities into realities. Whether you’re a resident of Bridgeport or not, there are things you can do right now to take action:

Check if you’re registered to vote by Clicking here.

Register or re-register to vote (this includes if you’ve changed your name, moved, or have finished parole!) by Clicking here.

Take Action! Click here to urge legislators to pass the RYASAP-supported voting bill, S.B. 5, which would increase opportunities for absentee voting in CT.

Take Action! Click here to urge legislators to pass the RYASAP-supported voting bill, H.J. 58, which would make absentee voting available to all.