Voting problems, fraud, scandals plague polling places across America: Connecticut
In Ansonia, Connecticut, Democrat Jorge Cabrera organized a rally Monday this week with about 30 supporters in front of City Hall after a lawyer working for the Senate Democratic caucus told him that instead of winning the race by 187 votes, he lost by 65.
The change occurred after Sen. George Logan’s campaign had dispatched its lawyers to Ansonia, because final results on the Secretary of the State’s website differed from the campaigns’ tallies there.
They discovered what Democratic Registrar of Voters Thomas Maffeo called a “transcription error” that resulted in the 252-vote swing, CTNewsJunkie reported. Sen. George Logan’s re-election was confirmed this Wednesday with the difference of 85 votes.
The state Republican Party is considering legal action in two legislative races that were settled this week after recounts. While no legal papers were filed Wednesday, the challenges would be made against two Democratic incumbents who won re-election: House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin and Rep. Phil Young of Stratford.
State GOP Chairman J.R. Romano said he is considering seeking a new election in the race between Young and Republican Jim Feehan. A recount that finished Wednesday showed Young had won by 13 votes out of more than 10,000 cast, but Romano said about 80 voters at one polling place in the district were given the wrong ballots on Election Day and did not vote in the Young-Feehan race.
“It would be the right thing to do,’’ Romano said. “They disenfranchised 80 people who were given the wrong ballots. Those 80 people could be the difference. We believe there should be a special election.
In the other race, Aresimowicz defeated Michael Gagliardi of Berlin by 50 votes in the two-town House district that also covers part of Southington.
But Gagliardi entered the race only after Republican Steve Baleshiski, a college student from Southington, quit amid sharp criticism about Facebook posts he wrote that prompted Republican leaders in both towns to drop their support.
As a result, some absentee ballots were sent out before Baleshiski withdrew and included his name. But votes cast for Baleshiski were not counted, officials said. Romano is concerned about Republicans who voted early in the race before Gagliardi was named as the GOP candidate in the final weeks.
“We have a brief ready to be filed,’’ Romano said Wednesday. “The candidate is contemplating whether or not to go forward — 51 people who voted against Joe, their votes were thrown out.’’
The final difference in the race was 50 votes. While some voters cast ballots for Balishiski — the earlier candidate — Romano also charged that 12 voters received absentee ballots with no Republican name at all.
“Joe should be calling for every vote to count,’’ Romano said of Aresimowicz. “This is where the hypocrisy of the Democrats shines through. Should every vote count? Yes or no?’’
Election officials Wednesday ordered a fifth recount, in the 64th House District in northwestern Connecticut. Results submitted to the secretary of the state’s office show Democrat Maria Horn ahead of Republican Rep. Brian Ohler. The recount must be completed by Friday, according to Hartfort Courant.
The district includes Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and Torrington.
Mishaps and missteps are something of an Election Day tradition in Connecticut, and this year did not disappoint. With just two employees tasked with registering swarms of voters in City Hall on Election Day, New Haven performed a mass swearing-in minutes before polls closed, prompting a Republican attorney to seek an injunction to set aside ballots that may have been cast improperly, Hartfort Courant wrote.
New Haven was not alone in failing to report its votes the day they were cast. Was it, as elections officials have said, because of the day’s downpour, which similarly affected Rhode Island but caused few of the same problems? Was it because two in three registered voters cast ballots, flooding polling places with the highest turnout in recent memory for a midterm election? Was it because Connecticut does not allow early voting, which cools some of the Election Day frenzy in other states? Or was it because registrars, the elected and partisan figures who tally votes and report them to a state clearinghouse, were severely unprepared?
Armando Herreria tweeted: “Witnessed blatant #VoterSuppression when #IVoted today. New Haven, CT city officials actively discouraged voters from waiting in voting lines and same-day voter registration lines as early as 3:30pm. Hundreds of #voters turned away.”
Witnessed blatant #VoterSuppression when #IVoted today. New Haven, CT city officials actively discouraged voters from waiting in voting lines and same-day voter registration lines as early as 3:30pm. Hundreds of #voters turned away. #ElectionNight @nhregister @yaledailynews pic.twitter.com/Aq500ihhRq— Armando Herrería (@ArmandoHerreria) November 7, 2018
On Tuesday night, attorneys for both Republicans and Democrats were mulling a lawsuit: Republicans to segregate ballots cast by same-day registrants, Democrats to extend voting hours. Only the Republicans filed suit. An attorney for Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski did file a last-minute motion seeking a temporary injunction to stop some of those Election Day registration votes — known as EDRs — from being counted, claiming the voters were illegally registered. Democrats meanwhile were contemplating asking a judge to extend polling hours so those same people could actually vote.
But the long lines at city hall were only part of what was a nightmare Election Day in the Elm City that has left many asking why city officials there can’t seem to get elections right, and has the American Civil Liberties Union contemplating a lawsuit against the city.
“New Haven was just a disaster,” said Herb Shepardson, the attorney who went to Hartford court for the Republicans seeking an injunction to stop the voting.
“They were driving machines around to polling locations and at one point they planned to take bags of votes to a central location to count them,” Shepardson said.
“New Haven's repeated failure to staff its polling places with enough workers to ensure people's rights to vote is practically inviting a lawsuit. The long lines and discouraged voters we saw today were a completely avoidable situation,” Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director, said.
Fred Decaro, Greenwich’s Republican registrar, credited the town for supplying his office with the manpower and the funding to do its job.
“We had six people trained on the computers to handle EDR,” he said, referring to Election Day Registration. “Compare that to New Haven. They had two.”
For some reason the problem of wet ballots gumming up voting machines impacted New Haven more than any other town, as USA Really wrote earlier. Election officials brought in new machines at some of the city’s 40 polling places, and at others they stuffed ballots into bags with the intention of driving them to a central location to be hand-counted, before someone realized that might not be the way to preserve the sanctity of the vote.
Eventually the wet ballots were counted by hand which is why New Haven was the last municipality to tally its votes while also being one of the most closely watched because as a Democratic stronghold it swung the election to Ned Lamont’s favor.
In an interview to Hartfort Courant, Barrett said he is looking at “all avenues of advocacy” to ensure Tuesday night’s chaos does not repeat itself in New Haven in the next election — as it has in the three previous ones. “It’s just courting disaster,” he said. “Repeated problems call into question the city’s ability to conduct an election at all.”