Connecticut doesn’t allow early voting, but this is the first presidential contest in which voters who forgot to register will still be able to register and vote on Tuesday.
But there are a few things those planning to register and vote on Election Day need to know to avoid long lines and any confusion at the polls.
In past years, voters still waiting to register were turned away at 8 p.m. when the polls closed. Some of the inability to get people registered to vote before 8 p.m. has been attributed to the lack of staff, who are hired locally by each municipality.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has expressed concern about some cities and towns not having enough resources to make the registration process go smoothy.
Each municipality, according to a training manual put together by Merrill’s office, will require voters to go to a central location designated by their city or town.
Staff at that location will look up their name in the Central Voter Registration System and see where they were previously registered to vote. Then they will make up to two phone calls to the voters previous city or town to make sure the person didn’t vote in that location.
“The registrars shall use their best efforts to contact the previous municipality of registration,” according to the Power Point from Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office. “This includes making at least two telephone inquiries to the previous municipality within a five to ten minute period. If the registrars receive two busy signals or are unable to contact the previous municipality within the two telephone call (five to ten minute) timeframe, the EDR process will also continue.”
It’s likely the former municipality, will have to call the polling location, if there are multiple locations in a city or town, and check that the person hasn’t voted.
If each voter takes up to 10 minutes to confirm, it’s not likely everyone who wants to vote will get a chance. That’s because if someone hasn’t registered and is in line at 8 p.m. they won’t be able to cast a ballot.
“The closer you get to 8 p.m., the more likely you will miss out. We want every vote to count. Please get there early,” Merrill said last week in a statement.
Merrill’s office has expressed concern that some cities and towns are not prepared for the number of voters looking to register on Election Day.
Registrars are not required to submit EDR staffing levels to Merrill’s office, but there is a recommended formula for how many people should be enough to handle Election Day Registration, Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for Merrill, said.
The city of New Haven told the state is planned to have nine people handling EDR. That number to too small based on the formula, Gallahue said.
The other concern is that registrars in some towns missed the trainings, but the state’s top election official is specifically concerned about cities and towns with higher populations of college students. He said Merrill did have staff work directly with a number of towns, including New Haven, to check on preparedness.
Melissa Russell, president of the Registrars of Voters Association, said they don’t really know what to expect on Election Day.
“We don’t know, what we don’t know,” Russell said.
She said there was a record number of registrations prior to Nov. 1, so she’s hoping almost everyone hoping to vote has already registered. More than 2.1 million voters have registered to vote, which is greater than the number of registered voters in 2008.
For those who still have to register on Tuesday, Russell recommends arriving early and finding out where they need to go. A central location has been designated by each town.
Voters also have to have proof of residency and identification.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would like to see people registering on Tuesday vote at their polling place instead of a central location.
“It’s a little clunky,” Malloy said Sunday after he saw a bus load of Connecticut Democrats off to New Hampshire.
If it was up to the governor, Connecticut would have changed its constitution to allow for early voting. But the idea didn’t win enough support from the legislature to move forward.
Malloy said people live their lives very differently and having a longer period of time in which to cast a vote is important.
“To have it in a constitution that you can only vote on that day doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Malloy added.
As far as voting Tuesday, Malloy said he’s concerned about long lines and discouraged voters, but dismissed the idea that there would be widespread fraud of any type. Connecticut uses paper ballots and none of the tabulators at the polling locations are connected to the Internet.
According to State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi there’s been 97 cases of voter fraud since 1974, but no cases involving voter impersonation.
“There’s never been a voter impersonation case,” Brandi said two weeks ago. “It’s the proverbial solution in search of a problem.”
He said Connecticut has had fraud cases involving voter intimidation, absentee ballot fraud, and people trying to fraudulently register voters, but no one is showing up at polling places pretending to be someone they aren’t.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that it will monitor the polls in 67 jurisdictions, including East Hartford, West Hartford, Hartford, Middletown, Farmington, New Britain, and Newington.
In Hartford there will be an election monitor who will be watching over the registrar of voters. In 2014, the registrars failed to have the voter lists to at least six polling places by 6 a.m. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was on the ballot that year, took all three registrars to court to keep the polling places open longer. A superior court judge agreed to keep two of the polling places open until 8:30 p.m.