The legislature’s General Administration and Elections Committee will hold five public hearings next month to gather public input on the performance of the new optical scan voting machines used statewide for the first time last November.
“Our purpose is simply to listen to what the public has to tell us so if we need to make changes to the law we can,” Rep. Chris Caruso of Bridgeport said Thursday.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg of Milford said lawmakers have received some feedback on the new machines, but would like to hear more. The bulk of concerns we’ve heard are about polling place privacy and recounts, she said.
Now that the old lever machines equipped with a curtain that closed behind you when you pulled the lever are gone many residents felt exposed walking their paper ballot to a scanning machine guarded by a moderator. Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz has said the state is looking at privacy booths or some sort of curtain to make voters feel their vote is private and secure.
Slossberg said concerns about the recount process were highlighted by what happened in East Haven.
In East Haven the race for mayor was so close it triggered an automatic recount. In the first recount poll workers discover 114 more ballots than votes cast, but after a second recount it found it counted a stack of ballots twice. Bysiewicz has said the discrepancy in the first recount had nothing to do with the new machines and most likely was the result of human error.
Slossberg said the committee will be looking at doing the first recount by re-feeding the ballots through the machine again and comparing the vote tally before initiating a hand-count of the ballots.
Caruso said one of the other problems with the new voting system is that polling places don’t know how many blank ballots they receive. He said there should be a system to sign out ballots so poll workers know how many ballots they have.
The location, date, and time of the committee’s public hearings has yet to be determined, but the list of towns includes West Hartford, Norwich, East Haven, Fairfield or Norwalk, and Danbury.
The University of Connecticut Voting Research Center will release the audit results of this past November’s election next week, a spokesman from Bysiewicz’s office said Thursday.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Bysiewicz said she looks forward to working with the committee in “continuing to refine our election process.”