(Updated 11:11 a.m.) On Tuesday Hartford’s Republican Registrar of Voters scheduled a press conference during which he planned to announce that the city’s Republicans would “not be able to participate in the Republican Primary for President. By Wednesday night he had cancelled it.
But its a little more complicated than that Hartford Council President Shawn Wooden and Chief Operating Officer David Panagore said Wednesday.
Here’s what happened, based on emails between the registrars and other city hall officials, along with background interviews:
On Feb. 15, the City Council’s budget committee met to discuss the movement of $55,000 into the Registrar of Voters budget to cover the costs of redistricting.
Neither Salvatore Bramante, the Republican registrar, nor Olga Vasquez, the Democratic registrar, showed up for the council meeting to explain the use of the money. (Vasquez later explained in an email that she was hosting a mandatory training session for poll workers that night.)
A Feb. 21 email from Panagore to the registrars asks for further clarification on the use of the $55,000, and suggests that, if the registrars wanted more funding for the two parties’ primaries, they should put in a request for supplemental funding.
Bramante then sent a funding request totaling just over $90,000 in personnel and supplies for the April 24 presidential primary, while Vasquez requested just over $110,000 for the this past Tuesday’s Democratic Town Committee primary.
In their supplemental funding requests, both Vasquez and Bramante budgeted for two workers each for the positions of assistant registrar, official checker, ballot clerk, and tabulator tender.
The Secretary of the State’s election guidelines suggest that only one of each position is needed.
City Hall brass agreed. After conferring with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Wooden sent the registrars a memo giving Vasquez $66,000 and Bramante $54,000.
“I understand that this total amount is less than you had requested,” Wooden wrote.
The memo continues:
“We arrived at this number by reconciling your request with the statutory requirements for minimum staffing at each polling place set forth in Connecticut General Statutes, Section 9-436. For example, your requests included funding for two assistant registrars, official checkers, ballot clerks, and tabulator tenders at each polling place, while state statute requires only one. Those reductions make up the bulk of the difference.”
Complicating the issue however, are rumors that Vasquez had already hired workers and signed contracts, exceeding her budget allocation and eating into the Republican budget. This led to Bramante’s accusations of the city’s de-funding of the Republican primary, city officials said.
Hartford has 1,800 registered Republicans, and about 23 percent of them, or just over 400 in a city of 125,000, turned out to vote in the 2010 primary.
Before the March 6 Democratic Town Committee primary, Vasquez told the Hartford Courant that she will “ proceed as normal to make sure the candidates are equally represented at the polls. If I exceed my amount they’ve allowed me, I will go to court.”
Neither Vasquez nor Bramante responded to repeated requests for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday. A visit to the registrars’ office by CTNewsJunkie yielded no comment from Vasquez, who was there at the time.
The dispute is, according to Wooden and Panagore, an issue for the Registrars office, not City Hall at large.
“Rational people working together should be able to find a reasonable solution,” Panagore said.
Wooden said in a statement Wednesday that “The Council did its job, and did so responsibly. And while we are being accommodating and are working to find a solution that best serves the city, the Republican registrar is being wasteful, unresponsive and combative. The public deserves better.”
Bramante’s press conference was scheduled to be held outside city hall at 5:30 p.m. today, but Hartford Republican Michael Fryar said late Wednesday the registrar and the city council had resolved the issue.