Well intended misstep on Connecticut’s horizon?

There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.
– H.L. Mencken

The Hartford Courant editorial board celebrates a step towards a mistake for which they have long advocated: Registrar Reduction On Hartford Horizon, Hartford Charter Commission wisely proposes end to five-year fiasco <read>

Hartford has wasted more than $1 million in the last five years on a top-heavy registrars of voters’ office. The city has three registrars, while every other municipality in the state has two.
Under a law that apparently dates back to when the Socialist Party had a strong presence in the state, the candidates for registrar who garner the highest and second-highest number of votes win the posts. But if a major-party candidate — Democrat or Republican — is not among the top two finishers, that candidate must also be named a registrar.
In 2008, the Working Families Party candidate outpolled the Republican candidate, so both, along with the Democrat, became registrars. The cost of each party registrar, with staff, benefits, etc., approaches $250,000 a year…

Two more things must happen. The change must be approved by voters in November, and the General Assembly must make a small change in state law.

While the Editorial Board may have their heart in the right place, they may be oblivious to the demanding job of registrar and the record of human nature. They have regularly been fighting this battle since before the third party registrar was elected. We have been arguing for better solutions then and now.

  • There is a reason for two registrars and three. The idea is to have checks and balances. Since the Working Families Party is the real challenger in Hartford, they need a registrar to watch out for their interests and the interests of their voters. Yet, as the one of the major parties in statewide elections, the Republicans need someone watching out for their interests in Hartford as well. Not so long ago we saw that a single registrar was insufficient to protect the interests of one party. Does the Editorial Board remember or read the news in the Courant?
  • Replacing three uncertified registrars with one uncertified registrar, without oversight is a formula for disaster.We have argued for replacing all registrars with civil service professionals, yet not the simplistic way apparently recommend by the Editorial Board: We have recommended: Doing for election what we have done for probate: Regionalize, Professionalize, Economize. But changing one city or only a simple change allowing for a single professional to run a city’s elections is false economy. We have professional iown clerks, yet the ycan be certified and supervised. To do the job right there needs to be training and qualifications; there needs to be standards for town councils to judge potential candidates; there needs to be a career path from deputy to registrar, from smaller districts to larger ones; there must be oversight in place to see that registrars do the job as intended and are even-handed to all parties, candidates and voters. Here is the bill we proposed last year <read> for a blue ribbon commission.
  • There is more than one way to save money, in spite of the city and Courant’s lack creativity. As we have said before there is no state law mandating that a third registrar cost $250,000. There are plenty of registrars across the state that work part time, so can three Hartford registrars work 2/3 time and be supported by three deputies with fewer assistants in total.

We appreciate that the Editorial Board understands the value of auditing.

Another change would expand the powers and scope of the city’s internal audit commission. The commission has been remarkably busy this year rooting out waste and should have the tools it needs. The revision also enables the creation of a public campaign financing mechanism, a nice idea when the city can afford it.

If only we had effective, comprehensive, independent election audits.

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