Norwich Bulletin: Merrill pitches for more tech, less costs in elections

Article: Merrill pitches for more tech, less costs in elections <read>

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Wednesday detailed her ideas for election changes that would include greater use of technology and support for a constitutional amendment allowing early voting…

Merrill was careful to say she isn’t supporting the idea of early voting but a constitutional amendment that would give Connecticut that option. Other states have begun using things like mail-in ballots more, boosting voter participation, she said…

“My primary consideration is costs,” the secretary said. “I’m looking for efficiencies.”

Merrill didn’t give exact estimates about how much she’s looking to save. A dialogue with municipal leaders is important, she said…

“The election process is a partnership with elected officials,” Merrill said.
Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon, who served with Merrill on the Appropriations Committee when both were in the General Assembly, said the ideas point in the right direction.

“She realizes that we’ve got to come into the 21st century,” said Congdon, who is also chairman of the council of governments. “She’s cognizant of the fact that we have to be able to afford these things.”

Costs was also on the mind of Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden.

“I applaud your initiative,” he told Merrill after the secretary finished her speech. “We have to look at what’s going on nationwide. But I’m concerned about mandates. The state gives us (towns) mandates but not the money for them.”

Saving money, getting people voting are laudable goals, yet we caution that in the process we should not sacrifice voting integrity and confidence in pursuing increased participation. In fact, we should be increasing integrity and confidence while we also pursue convenience and participation. And we should be cautious that our efforts actual result in the intended results.

In the words of Gerald Weinberg “Quality is Free, IF you are willing to pay for it.”

And in the words of Doug Chapin, at the Secretary’s Election Performance Task Force, just last month “You can have little to no impact on your turn-out bottom line with election laws. Turnout tends to be driven by what’s on the ballot rather than when, where, or how it is available.”

The article continues:

Merrill’s office is developing a “model plan” to deal with election day emergencies such as happened last November when some Bridgeport polling places ran out of ballots. She is asking every town to develop its own emergency plan that could include printing more ballots at the polls. Only one-third of voting registrars have Internet access, Merrill said. Increasing Internet use will reduce election problems, she said.

“Most of this stuff doesn’t get attention until something goes wrong,” the secretary said.

We could not agree more. It would be preferable, however, to prevent the next several election disasters in Connecticut, rather than reacting after the fact, saying “Who could have ever anticipated that…[check-off lists do not match ballot counts] or [we have such a weak chain-of-custody for ballots] or [a single individual could change the vote counts on the scanner and access the ballots undetected]?”

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