Following issues at polling places in Hartford this past Election Day, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is proposing to scrap Connecticut’s partisan registrar system. But, the ideas are being met with opposition. Secretary Merrill is calling for Connecticut to do away with the current election oversight system where two people, typically one Republican and one Democrat, are elected as registrars in each town. The Democrat says problems exist across Connecticut although issues in Hartford and Bridgeport – where dysfunctional working relationships and an inadequate supply of ballots have gotten the most attention in recent years. “Right now we have towns where they sort of don’t fulfill the reporting requirements,” Merrill said. “They will fail to report their election results in a timely way. We have more like workplace situations where one will be able to do the job very well and the other just never comes in the office. At this point, because they’re both elected, there’s no one that can resolve those issues because they’re not directly responsible to the town management and they’re not directly responsible to my office.”
Under Merrill’s legislation, each municipality would hire one registrar to oversee elections. Melissa Russell, president the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, says in a state where Democrats hold a 16 percent party registration edge over Republicans, having just one registrar doesn’t solve any partisan issues.
“I think it’s very, very hard to imagine a non-partisan person whose been politically appointed and who can be fired essentially,” Russell said. “They have somebody who can fire them if they’re not doing the job or if they’re not doing what the town fathers would like them to do. So the loyalty ends up not being to the voters it ends up being to the people who appointed you.”