(UPDATED 7:45 p.m.) Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman ordered Hartford officials to keep two polling places open for an additional 30 minutes Tuesday night — until 8:30 p.m. — to provide more time to vote for people who were turned away in the morning because poll workers had not received voter checklists from the city registrars’ office.
In addition, Schuman ordered an investigation into why the voter checklists were not available at up to 10 of the 24 polling locations in Hartford. Schuman ordered only two of those polling locations to remain open for an additional half hour because of the testimony offered by two witnesses who were there at Bachelder School and the United Methodist Church.
Attorneys Gregg Adler and John Gale testified that they witnessed voters who were unable to vote because of the actions of the election officials in those locations.
Herb Shepardson, who was in court representing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s campaign, called three witnesses to the stand who visited polling places in Hartford that didn’t experience the problems outlined by attorneys for the Democratic Party and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign.
Shepardson argued that if voters were unable to vote at 6 a.m. then there was plenty of time for them to return to the polls.
“They vote at 6 a.m. because they don’t like lines,” Shepardson said. “It doesn’t mean they can’t come back.”
In his ruling from the bench Tuesday evening, Schuman found that there was no alternative remedy and people at these two locations “were denied the right to vote due to the fault of election officials and they were not offered alternatives.”
He said the Malloy campaign did not meet the burden of proof concerning the other locations. He said that based on the testimony that the voter checklists arrived a half hour late, there was sufficient time to allow those people denied the right to vote a second chance.
“Connecticut law says very clearly that voter lists are to be delivered by the Registrars by 8 p.m. the night before the election to the moderators,” William Bloss, the Malloy campaign’s attorney, said. “We also know that just didn’t happen in Hartford.”
The judge did not necessarily disagree.
“This is not a de minimis violation, but rather affected dozens of people in total,” Schuman said.
At one point during the three hours attorneys were in court Tuesday, Schuman asked Hartford Corporation Counsel Jonathan Beamon why the voter checklists were not given to election officials by 8 p.m. the night before the election.
Beamon told Schuman that he didn’t know the answer to that question. So Schuman ordered the Secretary of the State’s office to conduct an investigation into how the error could have occurred.
Later Tuesday, after being order by the judge to investigate what had happened, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office filed a complaint with state election officials against the Hartford Registrars of Voters, alleging “gross misconduct” as well as the following:
-failure to properly prepare the final registry list, failure to properly prepare and open the polls;
-failure to properly mark the official registry list regarding absentee ballots;
-failure to properly implement and follow the voting process;
-failure to properly transmit the official registry list to the moderator of each polling location, and;
-neglect of their official duties.
The three Hartford Registrar of Voters were unable to be reached for comment Tuesday.
In closing, Schuman asked the news media not to report the results of the election until after 8:30 p.m. so as to not influence voters at these locations.
“We’re very pleased the judge recognized the gravity of the violation,” Bloss said outside the courthouse.
He said the judge focused on the two locations because that’s where there was eyewitness testimony regarding the absence of the voter checklist.
Bloss also said they believe there were as many as 14 polling locations in Hartford that had a late delivery of the voter checklist, but some of the waits weren’t very long.
“Cases like this don’t make for great litigation because people are trying to run an election. They’re trying to get people into the polls and you’re trying to prove a case at the same time as you’re trying to get people to vote,” Bloss said.
He said they were unable to pull in the moderators at the polling locations to testify in court because the election was still ongoing.