Testimony on two well-intended, yet (hopefully) fatally flawed bills

A week ago Friday, I testified against two well-intended, flawed bills that hopefully will not go forward.  One illustrates a terribly written bill that may have some underlying merit, yet leaves the public with no opportunity to understand the merits, the risks, and propose reasonable solutions.  The other intended to save work for registrars of voters, would not save much work at the expense of the voters and pollworkers.

My prepared remarks:

Chairs and members of the Committee, my name is Luther Weeks. I am Executive Director of CTVotersCount, a webmaster, and a Certified Moderator.

I have three objections to S.B. 27 as drafted.

First, as written the bill is way too broad, likely unconstitutional, and would shut down the Internet as we know it.

Second, Public access to voter lists is an important check – that only qualified individuals are registered and that people that did not vote, are in fact listed as not voting.

Finally, without knowing what might be proposed in a workable, detailed bill, it is difficult to provide testimony to the Committee that would articulate the benefits of keeping some information off the web vs. the risks to democracy of suppressing that information.

The public should have another opportunity to comment on a more fully formed bill.

I oppose S.B. 601. It is intended to reduce work for officials in counting and accounting for multiple votes for cross-endorsed candidates. However, the bill would do little to reduce work for officials and have unintended, negative consequences, especially for voters.

The first thing to note is that our current optical scanners likely cannot meet the certification requirements of this bill. If the certification requirements are interpreted to de-certify our scanners, then until they are replaced, the only legal method for voting in Connecticut would be paper ballots and hand counting.

In any case, S.B. 601 fails to do what the title implies, “eliminate overvoting for a candidate”. It would require a more error prone process than we have today.

It would result in a less positive voting experience for voters and for poll workers as voters are told they have “done something wrong” and need to vote again.

Time savings, if any, would be minimal and offset by increased time explaining the problem to voters, replacing their ballots and added hand counting of more ballots.

This change will be unnecessary, with electronic election night reporting, all calculations would then be handled automatically, relieving moderators of the allocation task.

Several times in the past I have testified against similar bills, pointing out similar concerns.
I encourage you to drop this bill as your predecessors have so wisely done.

Thank you.

You can see my full testimony at <S.B. 27> and <S.B. 601>.  All the testimony at <S.B. 27> <S.B. 601>

For S.B. 27 it is interesting to note than nobody in favor of the bill appeared in person to explain what the bill was intended to prevent.  A few days later, we can deduce the motivation from some of the testimony submitted, <here>.  Unfortunately, the bill is way overkill for the problem.  Perhaps there is a middle ground, yet the public needs access to voter lists including, name, address, age (if not birthdate), party and voting history.  Why should such information only be made available electronically to political parties and candidates, while leaving it only on paper in town hall for voters to check that only eligible citizens are registered and that individuals listed as voting actually did so.  Perhaps sites could be prohibited from posting the list, while the towns or the state required to publish it – in any case, it should already be a crime to use the list other than its intent. It seems that the Senate sponsor was not interested enough in the bill to come or event write testimony in favor of it, nor was anyone who proposed the bill. Hopefully the bill will not move forward, and perhaps someone will write a more reasonable bill, open to more responsive testimony.

Bills similar to S.B. 601 have been proposed in the past.  They actually are designed by the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) to save themselves a small amount of work, imposed by the Legislature.  As you can see from my testimony the scheme would save little work, cause voters work, causes voters disenfranchisement, more work for pollworkers, and may even outlaw our current voting machines.  In any case there are simpler, better solutions, suggested by me and others who testified.  Notice that some registrars testified for the bill, others against, while everyone else, including the municipal clerks association testified against it.

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