Secretary of the State Denise Merrill Wednesday gave election officials an A- grade for their handling of the huge number of voters who turned out to vote in the historic presidential election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“We had a pretty smooth election day overall,’’ Merrill at a press conference in her office at the state capitol on Wednesday morning.
The story was how many people wanted to have their say by voting.
“We had record registration numbers and record last minute registration,” Merrill said.
Merrill said while it is “too early’’ to know exactly how many people voted in Tuesday’s election in Connecticut, her office was tracking voter turnout at “75-to-80 percent and still counting. If it isn’t a record, it is certainly going to be close to one.”
“Election Day Registration has been a success,” said Merrill. She said that when final figures are tabulated it is likely that more than 30,000 people would have been able to cast a ballot because of this new opportunity for voters.
Meanwhile, more than 2.1 million voters have registered to vote before the cutoff date before Election Day Registration was required, which is greater than the number of registered voters in 2008.
While Merrill gave her office, and municipal officials high grades for their work handling the turnout, she conceded there were some problems.
There were long lines at some polling places, particularly in New Haven, where at some polling locations voters waited longer than an hour to cast their ballots.
“Personally, it is my goal that nobody should have to wait more than 30 minutes in a line to vote,” Merrill said. “People shouldn’t be getting in line to at 6 a.m. and waiting until 8 a.m. to vote. They may have to go to work.”
She added though that cutting back wait times for voters in Connecticut will always be a difficult task “because our elections are hyper-local,” meaning that each town has very specialized ballots with lots of different races included, meaning it takes extra time for each voter to fill out ballot.
Merrill said one lesson that may be learned from this election is that state officials need help from town officials to help manage the crowds.
“State budgets have been squeezed,’’ said Merrill, adding that one of the things that New Haven Mayor Toni Harp did to help out the Registrar of Voters office was lend municipal workers from the city’s Corporation Counsel office and the mayor’s own office to help handle the Election Day Registration crowd in New Haven.
“That may be something that needs to be done more in the future,’’ said Merrill. “More towns employing existing staff to help out.’’
The Secretary of State also conceded that there is “some work to do’’ on the state’s real time results website, myvote.ct.gov, where town-by-town results were supposed to be listed as they came in on Tuesday by election officials in all of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
By midnight 117 towns had reported and 38 had partially submitted their returns, according to the website.
“Perhaps it was unfair to launch this program on a big voting year,’’ Merrill said.
The system has been in the works for more than five years, but was completely revamped by PCC Technology Group in the past year.
Merrill said there is still a possibility of recounts in some of the races that were close ones in the state. By law a recount is automatically ordered if the winning margin is by less than ½ of 1 percent.
She said whether or not recounts are warranted should be known sometime later on Wednesday.
Merrill said she is also proud of Connecticut for one other reason – the use of new technology to help people with disabilities vote on Election Day.
“A blind man told me yesterday that because of the technology he was able to vote for the first time in 20 years,’’ said Merrill.