Registrars trade complaints, official and unofficial

West Hartford registrars are trading complaints, officially with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, and in the newspaper: State Investigating Complaint By West Hartford Democratic Registrar – Alleges Misconduct By GOP Registrar <read>

The state elections enforcement commission is investigating a complaint filed by the town’s Democratic registrar of voters that alleges misconduct by the Republican registrar, according to Joshua Foley, staff attorney and spokesman for the commission.

In her Sept. 10 complaint, Carolyn Thornberry claims that Eleanor Brazell violated state laws by not providing state-mandated supervised voting at nursing homes, specifically St. Mary Home, West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation and Atria Hamilton Heights…

State law requires that in “institutions” — including residential care homes, health care facilities for the handicapped, and nursing homes — where voters have difficulty getting to polling places,

a Democratic and a Republican registrar, or moderators from both parties, must supervise while voters fill out their absentee ballots. The ballots must also be collected at a designated time, according to state law.

The process allows a group to vote in one location at one time, according to Av Harris, spokesman for the secretary of the state, and eliminates the need for the voters to mail their ballots to the town clerk.

“This situation is serious … your continued recalcitrance has cost several elderly their right to vote,” Thornberry wrote. “In the professional work of a Registrar of Voters, there is nothing worse.”

In her complaint, Thornberry said that she found out during her first year as Democratic registrar that supervised balloting was arranged at certain institutions in town, but not at St. Mary Home or West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation.

State statutes require registrars to supervise balloting at institutions if more than 20 residents are electors or, for institutions with fewer than 20 electors, if an administrator from the institution makes a timely written request, according to the complaint…

State law requires that in “institutions” — including residential care homes, health care facilities for the handicapped, and nursing homes — where voters have difficulty getting to polling places,

a Democratic and a Republican registrar, or moderators from both parties, must supervise while voters fill out their absentee ballots. The ballots must also be collected at a designated time, according to state law.

The process allows a group to vote in one location at one time, according to Av Harris, spokesman for the secretary of the state, and eliminates the need for the voters to mail their ballots to the town clerk.

“This situation is serious … your continued recalcitrance has cost several elderly their right to vote,” Thornberry wrote. “In the professional work of a Registrar of Voters, there is nothing worse.”

In her complaint, Thornberry said that she found out during her first year as Democratic registrar that supervised balloting was arranged at certain institutions in town, but not at St. Mary Home or West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation.

State statutes require registrars to supervise balloting at institutions if more than 20 residents are electors or, for institutions with fewer than 20 electors, if an administrator from the institution makes a timely written request, according to the complaint.

The deputy registrars said they were told by Brazell and the former Democratic registrar that supervised polling wasn’t required at the facilities because they were designated polling places, Thornberry wrote.

The law does not distinguish between institutions that are used as polling places and those that are not.

Thornberry claims that administrators at St. Mary Home “shared their frustration about ‘begging’ the Office of the Registrar in past years to schedule supervised balloting and the registrars’ refusal to do so.”

Thornberry’s letter to the state elections commission says “it has been a struggle to assure effective operations and legal compliance due to the conduct of” Brazell.

“While we do differ in personality and work style, my only concern is the continuing pattern of irregularities and resistance to correction and change,” Thornberry wrote. “This is not a partisan issue.”

Thornberry wrote that Brazell failed to train election workers as required by law, did not re-certify moderators once their certifications had lapsed, and would change voter information without following the proper procedures.

Thornberry also also claimed that Brazell removed voters from the registry when mailers informing them of a change in polling places were sent back to the office marked undelivered.

In an email to town officials, town council members, the secretary of the state’s staff attorney and others dated Aug. 2 — more than a month before Thornberry filed her formal complaint — Brazell depicted a work environment full of threats and door-slamming, and said Thornberry’s “accusations are all lies.”

“She threatens me bullies me & the folks in the front office causing 2 of them to leave due to her bullying & a hostile work environment. She has made a mess of this office,” Brazell wrote in the email. “How long is the Town going to ignore her behavior? She is very unprofessional. I did not start this nonsense.”

Is it voter suppression? Laziness? or Trumped up conflict? In any case, it does not serve voters and democracy.

In our experience most registrars maintain good working relationships with their counterparts from opposing parties. Some form an effective, cordial team. Sometimes there is a political undercurrent which can occasionally get out of hand, possibly aggravated by genuine differences, or personality conflicts. This situation is not unique, see:
WFSB: What It Takes To Be A Registrar – Politics Play Out In Registrar’s Office 
Hartford Registrars: Fighting Disrupts City Office
 
Bridgeport Registrars: Dustup, Charges, Investigation
 
Registrar Nomination: Surprise Change Results In Dustup

New Registrar and Two Databases add to campaign dustup

It is hard to argue for the current system when these conflicts breakout, even harder to argue for the election of a single partisan registrar in each municipality. We say “Do For Elections What We Have Done For Probate”

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One response to “Registrars trade complaints, official and unofficial”

  1. hapless registrar

    On this one, I’m not ‘hapless’. Just thje facts please…
    – does each facillity have at least 20 residents?
    – Did the facillity request supervised balloting in a timely manner?
    – Could or would the reticent Registrar appoint a representative to fill in for her office?

    Whether the facility was already designated as a polling place, access for patients might have proven difficult. Supervised balloting for these folk serves not only as a convenience, but in most cases require assistance due to writing, sight, mobillity (Perhaps in their rooms), and comprehension or attentiveness problems. Facillity staff are prohibited by law from offering this assistance and family may be unavailable.

    As to problems between Registrars, as pointed out, in virtually all cases they work it out. Related to assisted voting, I had a counterpart who opposed supervised balloting for those with early or moderate alziemers. The comprimize was he picked someobne to represent him and his party, and the process went on.

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