CT: Historic: Third Party Registrar Elected In Hartford

Hartford Courant: Working Families Party Candidate Makes History in Hartford <read>

Add Urania Petit’s name to the list of people who made election history Tuesday.

Petit, a social worker and Working Families Party candidate for registrar of voters in Hartford, outpolled her Republican counterpart by more than 200 votes.

With that, city voters made Petit the first third-party candidate ever elected to a registrar’s office in Connecticut, according to the secretary of the state. Hartford will soon have three registrars — a Democrat, a Republican and a Working Families.

“My goal is not to register 20,000 for the Working Families,” she said. “When I get into city hall, it’s not even about Working Families. It’s about registering people, educating people and trying to increase voter participation.”

State law says the state’s two majority parties are guaranteed a registrar in each town. It also says that the candidates for registrar with the highest and second highest number of votes win the posts.

In Hartford, traditionally an extreme one party town, this is a good result. Voters register Democratic to vote in primaries, which for all intents and purposes determine the eventual winners in city elections. Of late, The Working Families Party has fielded candidates and received minority representation status on the Council. Without questioning anyone’s honesty, it adds credibility to have a representative of the second highest vote getting party at the table, participating in, and monitoring the process.

One of the unintended consequences of Petit’s election is fiscal. Bramante said registrars now are paid $80,000 a year, their deputies get roughly $60,000 and assistants are paid about $40,000. Those salaries and benefits are all paid by the city. The adopted budget for the registrars’ office this year — which didn’t anticipate Vazquez’s victory — is about $650,000. Last year, the office began with a spending plan of roughly $760,000 and, with cost overruns, wound up spending over $1 million.

This is not Petit’s fault. This is consistent with Hartford’s reputation for bureaucratic over staffing and over paying. Another Registrar is a reason to require less staff, not more. Perhaps there should be a third deputy, but then how about two less assistants. The pay scale also seems way above the area average, as we understand it, and with three registrars perhaps they should each work 2/3 time.

“In order for people to become engaged in the process, we need to educate them about voting, and that’s why I want to be registrar,” she said…

On the registration side, though, their numbers are small. According to Bramante, the city has 36,140 registered Democrats, 2,138 Republicans, 11,398 unaffiliated voters and 78 voters that are classified as “other” — which includes Working Families voters.

More voters in Hartford would be great for Democracy. It seems obvious from the numbers that with one dominant party the voters may see little reason to vote.

Previously we disagreed with a Courant Editorial which recommended against a third party Registrar, in favor of having only one: Downsizing Newspaper Recommends Downsizing Registrars <read>

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