Twice in the last three election cycles, snafus in Connecticut elections have made national news. In 2010 it was when Bridgeport ran out of ballots. In 2014 it was when Hartford couldn’t get polling places open on time. But these aren’t the only communities that had election difficulties in this period. Fairfield, Naugatuck, West Hartford and other towns had issues as well. “Enough is enough,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday as she announced a radical-for-Connecticut plan to reform the administration of elections. She is submitting a bill to the General Assembly that would do away with the system of two (or three) elected registrars of voters in each town and replace them with a single appointed, nonpartisan registrar, who likely would be on the town clerk’s staff.
The current registrars are politically powerful in many communities, so this will be a tough sell. But Ms. Merrill is on the right track. At the very least, towns ought to have the option to appoint a single registrar, as they do with town clerks. Hartford voters approved a charter change two years ago to allow the city to appoint “one or more” registrars, but city officials think they need a change in state law to implement the change.
Ms. Merrill said Connecticut is the only state in the country to have two partisan, locally elected officials. In many states, county boards of elections hire nonpartisan professional staff to run elections. Here, candidates are picked by town political committees, not infrequently as patronage rewards. The candidates don’t have to meet minimal qualifications.