Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have given local election officials discretion in deciding how many polling locations to open for a party primary. The measure also would have helped cities and towns save money.
In his veto message Malloy said he understands it may have saved municipalities money, but it has the “potential for undermining the right to vote.” That’s largely what made the bill “unacceptable” to him.
He said there’s a high probability of voters going to the wrong polling place and some may have difficulty reaching the alternative one or get frustrated and go home upon learning their regular polling place is closed.
The bill gave local election officials 60 days to announce polling place consolidation efforts.
“Given the importance of ready access to the polls and my commitment to ensuring every eligible citizen their ability to vote, I cannot support this bill,” Malloy wrote.
Malloy also opposed the procedure set forth by the legislation to oust a Registrar of Voters. In his veto message he wrote that the section wasn’t detailed enough and he didn’t believe there should be any margin of error when directing the courts about how to remove an elected official.
However, the bill received broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly. It was unanimously approved by the Senate and passed on the consent calendar in the House.
Karen Cortes, the Simsbury Democratic Registrar of Voters, was one of the bill’s biggest proponents. Cortes has argued that 42.5 percent of the electorate is ineligible to vote in primaries and turnout among major party voters does not warrant the opening of all voting locations for primaries in many towns.
Currently, state law requires all polling places to be opened for both the primary and general election.
For Cortes, that means if 30 percent — or 1,500 Republican Party voters — decided to vote in a primary, she would still have to open and staff all four polling places, when just one would suffice. Of the 5,092 registered Republicans in town, 744 turned out to vote on April 24.
The argument for giving certain towns discretion is even more stark when looking at primary turnout in cities.
In Hartford, there was a battle this year between the Republican and Democratic Registrar of Voters over how to divide the money they received from the City Council for the various party primaries. Republican Registrar Salvatore Bramante initially didn’t believe he would have enough money to open all the polling places for the April 24 presidential primary.
Bramante eventually received the $54,000 he needed to open and staff all the polling locations.
Hartford has 1,800 registered Republicans. About 23 percent of them, or just over 400 in a city of 125,000, turned out to vote in the 2010 primary. That comes to $135 per ballot cast.
In New Haven it was a similar story.
That city spent $24,000 to hire 128 people to work for 16 hours at 32 polling places — including places where only one lonely Republican has cast a ballot in the past.
At one polling place more wild turkeys showed up than humans this year.
There’s a total of 2,458 registered Republicans in New Haven. Of those, 388 turned out to vote on April 24. That comes to $61.85 per ballot cast.