The registrars of voters spoke to the board of directors Tuesday night about the many and unprecedented problems on Election Day, including long lines, voter confusion and a shortage of electronic ballots. In preparing for the election, the registrars said they looked at previous voter turnout in presidential elections and listened to political commentators who said President Barack Obama’s supporters were not as keen to cast ballots as they were in 2008. So considering that turnout in Manchester going back to 1996 had been 76 percent to 78 percent, Democratic Registrar Francis Maffe Jr. and Republican Registrar Tim Becker ordered enough ballots for an 82 percent turnout.
That cushion was not nearly enough, they learned, as 83.7 percent of the town’s approximately 28,600 voters cast ballots. The registrars had to scramble and order paper ballots on Election Day, and 710 of those were used.
Also, there were 632 “spoiled” ballots, as many confused voters marked more than one candidate for the same office, for instance. That large number — the average number of spoiled ballots in an election is about 60 — caused delays when machines spit the ballots back, Maffe and Becker said.
A major problem was the recent reduction in voting districts from 10 to 8, Maffe and Becker said. Long lines and waits of up to 1 1/2 hours were problems at three polling places — Manchester High School and Waddell and Highland Park elementary schools. Adding to the problem was that some voters waited in the wrong lines, discovering only after getting to the front that they were in a line for street names beginning with “M,” for instance, rather than “A.”
Directors said they heard many complaints about the long waits and particularly about elderly and handicapped people who could not endure standing that long and left before voting.
There is no provision in state law, Maffe and Becker said, that allows a disabled or feeble elderly person to go ahead of other voters. And in at least one case on Election Day, a man waiting in line to vote would not allow a disabled person to go ahead of him, saying he had to get to work, Maffe said.