By John Murray

The Connecticut Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, right, was in Waterbury last night to participate in a non-partisan conversation about engaging Hispanics in the voting process. The event “Civic Engagement Matters”, was sponsored by the City of Waterbury and the Secretary of State’s Office, and was staged at Reed Elementary School on North Main Street. Mayoral aide, Geraldo Reyes Jr., is on the left.

Aproximately fifty Waterbury residents showed up to listen to Merrill talk about the importance of civic responsiblilty, and to hear the Secretary of State answer questions about the voter registration process.

Merrill has focused on modernizing Connecticut’s election process, making voting easier, expanding voting rights by enacting Election Day Registration, and making Connecticut the 10th state to permit eligible voters to register to vote securely online. Last night Merrill told the largely Hispanic audience that she was perplexed by survey results that revealed 90% of Puerto Ricans vote in Puerto Rico, but when they move to Connecticut only 23% participate in the process. She wanted to know why, and the answer overwhelmingly was that in Puerto Rico election day is a national holiday. “Everybody has the day off, it’s a national holiday,” Merrill said. “There are parades, elections cakes, it’s a big celebration. Maybe we can learn something from that.” Merrill is pictured above answering a question from Victor Lopez, the president of the Hispanic Coalition in Waterbury.

Last night’s event was an indication of an increased desire by Waterbury’s Hispanic to be engaged in city politics.