Inadequate Election Day Registration Pilot Nixed

CTMirror report:  Panel Kills Primary Day voter registration bill <read>

The state legislature’s Appropriations Committee killed a bill Monday that would have allowed residents to register and cast ballots on the same day during the 2011 municipal primaries.

The pilot program, which was rejected 39-11 with bipartisan opposition, also had been opposed by municipal registrars of voters, who saw it as the first step toward general Election Day registration.

“What a nightmare it is for them, logistically, to implement this,” Sen. Daniel Debicella of Shelton, the ranking Republican senator on the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee, said.

Primaries are meant to allow political parties to resolve their respective nominations for offices, said Rep. Deborah Heinrich, D-Madison, adding she fears the bill would lead to a mass of last-minute registrations from voters interested only in casting a primary ballot, and not in remaining with their new party. “I don’t see that exactly as the system working,” she said.

Advocates of allowing same-day voter registration argue it is an effective tool to boost voter participation. Nine states currently offer some form of Election Day registration: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“They are a rousing success” in those states, said Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a supporter of the measure defeated Monday.

We are conditionally for * Election Day Registration and opposed this inadequate bill in our testimony earlier this year.  Our opposition was based on authorizing a pilot program with inadequate  evaluation provisions, piloting an inadequate, disenfranchising voting method:

I support the good intentions and concepts behind H.B.5321, yet I have serious concerns with the specific approaches in the current bill.

I am generally opposed to the expansion of absentee balloting for any purpose. Absentee ballots have security and integrity risks not associated with regular voting. Election day registration may represent over 10% of the votes in an election. Beyond risks to integrity, in every election absentee voters are disenfranchised without their knowledge in two ways:

  • First, they may make a simple mistake in following procedures and have their ballot rejected.
  • Second, voters do not have the opportunity to revote their ballot if by mistake they overvote.

It would serve the voters of Connecticut much better if Election Day Registration (or EDR) were available at each polling place as is the case in five (5) of the six (6) states with EDR as of 2006.  Connecticut could follow the examples of Maine, New Hampshire, or Minnesota. We are piloting a less than adequate system, I presume because of concerns with cost and integrity. I recall testimony before the GAE demonstrating the integrity and effectiveness of polling place EDR in Maine.

I would also recommend that any pilot program include a requirement for independent objective analysis with reporting back to the Legislature, rather than relying only on feedback from election officials. When Secretary Bysiewicz chose new election equipment in 2006, she included an independent professional analysis involving citizen evaluation, along with focus groups of citizens and election officials. Without that study we might well have doubled our costs and be voting today on inadequate touch screen voting equipment.

See our full testimony for how this bill could have been improved: <Testimony>

(*) When we say we are “Conditionally Against” a proposition, we mean that nobody has proposed a realistic safe way to accomplish the proposition. We remain open to the possibility that a means may be found that would pass the scrutiny of the majority of computer scientists, security experts, election officials, and voting integrity advocates.

When we say we are “Conditionally For” a proposition, we mean that other states have safe implementations of the proposition or computer scientists, security experts, election officials, and voting integrity advocates have recommendeda safe solution. We caution that a particular implementation or law may not meet a reasonable standard of safety.

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