Bridgeport’s “ran-out-of-ballots” fiasco got Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s attention. “People were turned away at the polls and not allowed to vote!” she told a League of Women Voters meeting in Ridgefield recently. “We don’t need one more thing to cause people to lose faith in the system.” Just elected in November 2010, Merrill wouldn’t take office as Secretary of the State until January 2011. But she followed all that unfolded. The 2010 election’s signature foul-up became motivation for electoral reform. And it provides much of the context for a series of proposals Merrill and Governor Dannel Malloy have put before the Legislature this year.
Three proposals from Merrill’s office were heard by the Legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee on March 2.
The proposals are:
• Election Day registration, allowing people to register and vote on election day.
• Online voter registration, so people with driver’s licenses can register as voters from home by computer.
• A constitutional amendment changing wording in the state Constitution that, with narrow exceptions, limits voting to be at polling places on election day.
This is a first step that opens the way to potential future laws allowing early voting, mail-in voting, or “no-fault” absentee ballots. Although, as Secretary of the State, Merrill is the state’s chief elections officer, her power to shape election operations is largely indirect.
“I don’t have a lot of authority,” she said. “Local elections officials run elections.”