Courant Editorial Misses the Mark on At Least Three of Five Points

On Sunday the Hartford Courant lead Editorial proposed fixes to its perceived problems with Connecticut’s election system: 5 Fixes For State’s Broken Election System <read>

We say perceived problem, since the newspaper’s concern is for quicker results to feed the Courant and other impatient media:

Connecticut is a slowpoke on election results compared to other states. This will not do. Voters need to know on election night who their new governor is. They shouldn’t have to wait till the next morning.
Here are a few ways for the state to catch up with the rest of the nation…

1. Take humans out of it… 2. Stop using pens and rulers… 3. Send in state help… 4. Appoint professionals… 5. Vote Earlier.

Note that all the statewide races were decided by 8:00am on Wednesday morning after the election.

To the Courant’s credit, for the second time in a row, they published a letter of mine criticizing an editorial. The letter is slightly modified from the one I sent after extensive fact checking by Carolyn Lumsden, Opinion Editor, and a couple of emails back and forth. It makes the same points as the original. I would only quibble with a bit of grammar. I said as much as I could in keeping the letter within the size that the Courant usually publishes.

Proposed Fixes Could Make Problems Worse

The editorial “Five Fixes for State’s Broken Election System” misses the mark on at least three of its five proposals [courant.com, Nov. 11].

It suggests that early voting would provide quicker results. Is The Courant aware that California, Colorado, Georgia and Florida all have early voting and were still counting mail-in votes on Saturday? In fact, California counts mail-in votes for weeks after each election.

The Courant proposes following Philadelphia by using memory cards to accumulate results. Philadelphia is one of the notorious areas of the country with paperless direct-recording electronic voting machine, or DRE. Using memory cards to total results in Connecticut in any reasonable time frame would entail connecting memory cards to the internet, which would risk hacking, a risk that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has steadfastly and appropriately avoided.

There are some benefits to electronic poll books, yet there are also risks that must be mitigated. Electronic poll books have proved in some places to slow down check-ins, requiring more lines; there must be paper backup and effective contingency plans when poll books fail, as they did in a North Carolina county in 2016.

Professionalization may be part of a solution, yet any solution brings its own challenges. I would support professionalization as part of regionalization of elections, so that professionals are not appointed and funded by partisan local government. A part-time or individual professional would be insufficient to conduct professional elections in our small towns. There are real challenges, money can help, yet we need a thorough, rational top-to-bottom review that considers best practices from other states and countries.

There was also an excellent letter on Tuesday from Fred DeCaro III, Republican Registrar of Voters from Greenwich. DeCaro expands on the reasons why replacing two registrars in a town by a single town appointed official is not a good idea.

Bipartisan Registrar System Is Fairer

Every election season, The Hartford Courant likes to complain because writers don’t have the results in time to get their beauty sleep [editorial, Nov. 6, “Editorial: Governor Results Take Too Long”].

The logical leap for Courant editorialists is that we need to get rid of our system of two registrars per town, one from each of the two major parties, and replace it with “one professional nonpartisan registrar per town.”

Because things would go faster and with fewer errors if one person typed in the numbers instead of two? I suppose the news would get printed faster if The Courant didn’t use fact-checkers, too.

I’m sure Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim would love to be able to appoint his own personal registrar. And if his appointee doesn’t get him the results he wants, he can swap the registrar out. Kind of like President Trump and the head of the FBI. Eventually both will find a candidate sufficiently “nonpartisan.”

Having two individuals of different viewpoints checking each other is common sense. Financial institutions are required to have dual control. Most states have boards of elections, which are bipartisan. Having a Democratic and a Republican registrar in every municipality is Connecticut’s method of making certain that all actions with regard to an election are measured.

The fastest election results can be found in Brazil, which uses an all-electronic system with no paper ballots, electronic transmission and the added benefit of recording your fingerprints before you vote. No public watchdogs are allowed to examine the proprietary code. You vote or you pay a fee.

I’ll stick with paper ballots and wait a little longer for the results. And I’ll sleep more restfully as a result.

I also had a short, related Facebook exchange with Essie Labrot, Town Clerk of West Hartford, which clarifies my concerns with undue haste and expanded absentee balloting:

Essie Labrot As a Town Clerk, my office issued over 3,000 absentee ballots. We need to change the statutes to allow counting of them earlier than 10 am on election day. Also, streamline the application process for AB’s (including acceptance of electronic signatures). Reliance on mail system leaves ballot errors and late applications missed votes.

Luther Weeks or change the law like CA, CO, FL, GA … to allow counts to go on days or weeks after Election Day. That would also entail adjusting recancass dates.

Essie Labrot I don’t think candidates would want to wait weeks for final results..our state is much smaller than those who have all mail voting..and county based.

Luther Weeks I was not suggesting weeks. Maybe 2 days. The law already provides 48 hours for polling places, except for reporting the tape [which is supposed to be completed on election night]. There are other risks and issues with the law in starting [counting absentee ballots] before Election Day. Many states give voters time to cast in person on Election Day to override their AB. For different reasons we give them until 10:00am [on election day]. Also the dead voter rule [which requires pulling of absentee ballots for voters not alive on election day]. Lots of choices and associated issues to consider with any change!

Essie Labrot absolutely! Looking forward to seeing you at the Capitol..

One real problem in this election was the civil rights violation that is our Election Day Registration system’s 8:00 cutoff, see: <Connecticut dodges EDR bullet. How long will EDR dodge the Civil Rights bullet?>

 

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