As of Monday evening, North Canaan was the only town whose election results were still missing from the Secretary of the State’s website, almost a week after the Nov. 5 municipal elections. They were posted Tuesday morning.
A handful of other towns snuck in just under Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline to avoid being fined $50 for failing to provide their results to the state in a timely fashion. But without the official voting data from every town, it’s impossible to glean an accurate statewide voter turnout figure for Election 2013.
Of course, the returns were due at the SOTS’s office by 6 p.m. the day after the election, but dozens of towns missed that initial deadline and submitted their information in the days following.
Monroe, Middlebury, Naugatuck, and Watertown submitted their returns Friday before the deadline, according to the time stamps on documents uploaded to the website.
So, aside from not having a statewide voter turnout percentage, the returns also happen to be posted on the SOTS’s website in PDF format. While this is an improvement over the results not being posted, it’s still not easy to work with. Many of the results appear to have been written by hand before they were faxed. This essentially means that the only way to find out how many bubbles were filled across the state for a given party is to open all 165 documents and to enter the totals into a spreadsheet one at a time.
And it’s still unknown exactly how many people registered to vote that day.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she was disappointed in the tardy response from local registrars since her staff was ready to upload the returns as soon as they arrived at her office. She said the uploading of election returns as PDFs was an attempt to bring transparency to the electoral process.
Last week’s election marked the second year in which the state attempted to pilot a real-time, web-based reporting system intended to replace the laborious and outdated process utilizing paperwork and fax machines to collect the data. Merrill said the system was designed for about $100,000 by PCC Technology Group, which has an office in Bloomfield.
Last year, a handful of towns participated. This year, some 32 tried the software but only 13 of those were able to submit their head moderator results using the program. That means there were 19 towns that logged in and filed at least one moderator’s return, but did not finish the process by submitting the head moderator’s return. Some of the problem was related to the availability of wifi at specific polling locations. Completing the real-time results via the Internet also wasn’t mandatory, so there was no incentive to use the web-based form.
Merrill said Monday in a phone interview that PCC’s software did not have a field for inputting Election Day Registration numbers and, since every town ballot is different, PCC had difficulty coding all the new information.
Merrill said there were language barriers in describing exactly what each town needed for their ballot. She said she believes PCC’s system will work better next year because there will be fewer variations between ballots in a statewide election.
“I hope more people use it next year,” Merrill said.
She said she was upset this year turned out the way it did because she doesn’t want technology to hinder attempts to get real-time election results.
Last year, Merrill didn’t express much confidence that she would be able to get all the local registrars to submit their returns electronically.
“I don’t have any hope of convincing all the registrars, but quick results mean more public confidence in our election system,” Merrill said.
The statute requires registrars to deliver results by 6 p.m. the following day, but despite the relative autonomy of each municipal registrar of voters, she added that the statute says the Secretary of the State can decide how results are to be delivered.
“All I can do is keep hammering on it,” Merrill said. “At some point, we’ll unplug the fax machines and call the question. At least that might get them to use email.”
But on Monday, Merrill expressed little confidence — after this year’s performance — that she will be able to get any better cooperation from the registrars.
Merrill’s office has paid the company more than $2.31 million over the past two years, but the real-time reporting project was priced about $100,000.