Merrill not sure about ballot reform

From Ray Hackett, Norwich Bulletin <read>

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill told municipal leaders this morning that she isn’t sure calls for local communities to provide 100 percent ballots, one for every registered voter, is the appropriate answer to the problem in Bridgeport where election officials ran out of ballots at the last election.

Several bills have already been introduced in the legislature this year that would require communities to have one ballot for every registered voters, an added cost to local communities. Merrill said although she’s not sure that is the best way to go, she added that she is looking at what other states are doing, but offered no clear alternative.

She did suggest, however, that every community should have an “emergency plan” and offered that maybe her office might provide a template of sort so that if a problem arises during an election, there is a uniformed plan in place to deal with it quickly and effectively.

We agree that 100% of ballots may be overkill, especially in local municipal elections, primaries, and referendums. We would recommend stronger state laws, procedures, and enforcement.  From the Coalition Recommendations:

Connecticut must do better in the future. This will require appropriate action by election officials and the legislature. At this point we suggest possible components of a comprehensive solution that deserve consideration :

  • Mandatory formulas for minimum ballot orders. In the wake of the events in Bridgeport, many have suggested a variety of remedies–from printing a number of ballots using formulas based on past history in similar in elections, to at least one ballot for every registered voter in every election. It should be noted that in the November 2010 election, several communities in addition to Bridgeport used emergency photocopied ballots. We recommend that the Secretary of the State work with various stakeholders to develop a mandatory formula to be used by local registrars.

Adoption of emergency plans: It’s important to note that, simply printing more ballots only reduces the chance of the specific problem that occurred in Bridgeport. There are other causes that could result in a municipality having to scramble to photocopy ballots or perform hand counting such as a massive power failure or ballots lost in a fire, flood, or accident shortly before or during Election Day.

  • Enforceable laws, regulations, and procedures for the monitoring of turn-out to provide sufficient warning of ballot shortages, so that photocopied ballots can be available at polling places in time. For example, many municipalities follow the practice of having polling places report hourly vote counts to the registrars of voters. This practice could be codified to mandate that registrars stay in their offices (not at the polls) on Election Day along with a requirement to report available ballots and turn-out.
  • Enforceable laws, regulations, and procedures for the creation, security, and accounting for all ballots and for the creation and handling of emergency photocopied ballots….

Update: Meanwhile in Bridgeport, from the Brideport News: Bridgeport to order enough special election ballots for 100% of registered voters <read>

Merrill said she commends Bridgeport’s registrars of voters for leading by example and ordering enough ballots to cover a 100% voter turnout in the 126th General Assembly district.

“As we look at ways to improve our election system in Connecticut following the problems we encountered in the 2010 general election, this is a good, safe rule of thumb to follow to ensure that there are always enough ballots for Connecticut voters, and no one is ever turned away from the polls,” she said. “I encourage other municipalities to take this step.”

Update: Government Administration and Election Committee Chair, Gayle Slossberg weighs in, via Ken Dixon <read>

“Obviously this is an issue that needs to be resolved,” she said of the Bridgeport meltdown. “We’re trying to draft a reasonable solution to this problem. To require every town to have 100 percent of the ballots is absurd. We’re looking for a reasonable solution, making sure each community has the right amount of ballots.”


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.