Voters in Pennsylvania received timely election results on their computers and mobile devices Tuesday, but voters in Connecticut will have to wait until next year for a similar service.
Pennsylvania’s redesigned election returns website allowed users to customize searches, view results on mobile devices, and receive timely updates, according to a press release from Pennsylvania Secretary of the State Pedro Cortes.
In Connecticut, voters will have to wait until the April 26 presidential primary to get real-time election results, but in 2017 voters will again be left to fend for themselves.
On Monday, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said the results reporting system they’ve been trying to develop for five years with PCC Technology of Bloomfield is “unworkable for local elections.” Merrill said they’ve decided against using it during the odd numbered municipal election years because the ballots have too many idiosyncrasies.
She said it’s too tough to come up with a system that allows for all the different ballots to be entered into the system. Merrill tried to pilot the results reporting system in about two dozen towns in 2012 and ran into several problems. The system was clunky and difficult to use.
However, that doesn’t mean the state has completely given up on the idea.
In East Hartford on Tuesday night, Moriah Moriarty, Merrill’s executive assistant, was using what was described as an improved version of PCC Technology’s system.
The new version is to be deployed statewide for the 2016 presidential primary.
Tuesday’s returns started coming in after 8:30 p.m.
The head moderator accepted the information from all seven of East Hartford’s polling places and Moriarty entered the information into the new online system. When the system goes live in 2016, the information the head moderator accepts will automatically be entered into the system eliminating any additional steps for tired poll workers.
Those results will go live immediately after they are entered. The results will be unofficial, but they will be available to the public immediately.
There were no obvious problems with the system Tuesday and all the information Moriarty inputed was showing up immediately on a public website.
Merrill said Connecticut’s system will do all the things that the new technology does in Pennsylvania, and that by 2016, which is the next statewide and presidential election, voters will be able to get the results online, just like voters were able to in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
East Hartford was the only place Tuesday that was tabulating the live results. The results from the rest of the municipalities will be faxed to Merrill’s office and turned into a PDF, which will eventually be uploaded online in an unsearchable format. Registrars don’t have to submit those results for 48 hours.
Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, who is the ranking member of the General Administration and Elections Committee, said he thought Merrill’s office was going to receive live results from all 165 municipalities conducting elections on Tuesday. He said he thought it was supposed to be a “dry run.”
But the live test was just in East Hartford.
“They were going to test this so that it was flawless for the presidential election,” McLachlan said.
Merrill said that’s absolutely the goal.
“We want to make sure everything is working statewide for the presidential primary,” Moriarty said.
The Secretary of the State’s office still has to develop a training module for the new system to train local registrars of voters on the system. That will need to be completed before the presidential primary.
The need for public results reporting is real.
In 2011, the Associated Press, which previously staffed every polling place in the state to collect results for all of its member newspapers, decided not to collect results for municipal elections.
“The public media isn’t what it used to be. We are the public source,” Merrill has said. “We should be the source for the numbers, the accurate information that people need.”
The state has paid PCC Technology Group close to $5 million over the past five years, but not all of the money was for development of the results reporting. The company also helped create the state’s online voter registration system and does other work for the office. It’s unclear how much of the $5 million over the past five years has been dedicated to election results reporting.