Right now, there’s no way to remove a registrar of voters who messes up an election. There’s no way to force registrars to get training, and no way for the state to take over a persistently dysfunctional local election system. After yet another troubled election, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday she expects to ask the legislature for reforms that could solve those issues. Merrill said she also wants state funding for technological improvements that could help reduce the chance of error in what she considers “an archaic system” for keeping track of who has voted and reporting election results. The biggest question surrounding any significant reform, Merrill said, is whether “there is the political will” in the General Assembly and the governor’s office to act. “I don’t think it’s politically impossible,” Merrill said, “but it is difficult … we’re talking about vested interests here.”
Registrars of voters are elected in each of the state’s 169 cities and towns, and there is at least one Democratic registrar and one Republican registrar for each municipality. Some, like Hartford, have three paid registrars.
The jobs are often handed out to party loyalists who aren’t required to have any training. Many registrars have close ties to politically powerful people: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s brother is a registrar; so is Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman’s husband.
Those sorts of connections can make reforming the traditional way of running elections with locally elected registrars politically difficult, Merrill warned. But embarrassment over recent election mistakes is creating a new pressure for reform.