Stream­lin­ing state elec­tions.

Stamford Advocate - - Front Page - By Kait­lyn Kras­selt kkras­selt@hearst­medi­act.com; 203-842-2563; @kait­lynkras­selt

It took al­most 10 hours af­ter the polls closed for Con­necti­cut vot­ers to learn who won the hard-fought gov­er­nors race, and by the time Ned La­mont was named the next gover­nor, hardly any­one was awake to hear it.

It’s not the first time elec­tion re­sults have been de­layed in the state — Con­necti­cut’s cities have de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for hold­ing up the process — but with a wider ma­jor­ity in the state leg­is­la­ture, Sec­re­tary of the State Denise Mer­rill is hope­ful there could be changes on the hori­zon for the state’s vot­ing laws.

First on the agenda will be propos­ing once again a change that would al­low early vot­ing in Con­necti­cut, as well as cre­ate no-ex­cuses ab­sen­tee vot­ing. She also plans to pro­pose au­to­matic regis­tra­tion for 16-year-olds, who could be reg­is­tered when they visit the state De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles for the learn­ers per­mit.

“There’s more op­ti­mism for pass­ing early vot­ing,” said Gabe Rosen­berg, a spokesman for Mer­rill’s of­fice. “I think that there’s a real hunger for early vot­ing. So many peo­ple want to vote early, es­pe­cially when they see how many peo­ple in other states do it.”

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia al­low early vot­ing in per­son, which cuts down lines on Elec­tion Day, es­pe­cially in highly pop­u­lated cities, and helps re­sults come in faster. A record 36 mil­lion peo­ple across the coun­try voted ahead of Elec­tion Day this year.

Cheri Quick­mire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Com­mon Cause in Con­necti­cut, said she’d like to see early vot­ing as well as well as ex­panded au­to­matic voter regis­tra­tion. Long lines for Elec­tion Day Regis­tra­tion in New Haven cre­ated con­fu­sion when hun­dreds of peo­ple were still in line past the 8 p.m. dead­line to reg­is­ter.

“If we’re go­ing to in­sist on stick­ing with the idea that it has to hap­pen all on one day then it re­ally should be a hol­i­day,” Quick­mire said. “But early vot­ing works re­mark­ably well in other states and for years it’s been work­ing well. I would like to see early vot­ing in Con­necti­cut, which would ease up on some of the pres­sure for elec­tion of­fi­cials.”

The big­gest prob­lem, Quick­mire said, was the the polling sites and regis­tra­tion lines were un­der­staffed. He said look­ing at ways to stream­line and add con­sis­tency to polling prac­tices across Con­necti­cut’s cities and towns will also be a fo­cus of the Sec­re­tary of the State’s of­fice.

“There need to be ad­di­tional re­sources put into hir­ing ad­e­quate staffing or to re­cruit­ing and train­ing vol­un­teers who are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing the ser­vices that are needed,” Quick­mire said. “Clearly there were not enough staff in New Haven to make the Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion hap­pen.”

In many state’s, vot­ing prac­tices are han­dled by re­gional county gov­ern­ments. But in Con­necti­cut, where there is no county gov­ern­ment, all 169 towns and cities are re­spon­si­ble for their own elec­tions.

To make mat­ters more com­pli­cated, ev­ery town has two — some­times three — reg­is­trars. That’s well over 330 elec­tion of­fi­cials, each with the au­thor­ity to run elec­tions how they see fit. Un­sur­pris­ingly, that causes prob­lems, Rosen­berg said.

The only way to change Con­necti­cut’s vot­ing prac­tices is through a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that would al­low early vot­ing and elim­i­nate the re­stric­tions on ab­sen­tee vot­ing, a mea­sure that has pre­vi­ously failed in Con­necti­cut.

In the past two leg­isla­tive ses­sions, bills that would ad­dressed early vot­ing passed the House but were never called for a vote in the Se­nate, which was tied 18-18. Now, with a greater ma­jor­ity in both houses, it’s likely vot­ers will see an early vot­ing ques­tion on the bal­lot next time around.

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