HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) – Connecticut voters re-elected Gov. Dannel Malloy without getting the tally from Hartford where polls stayed open late to compensate for missing voter lists.
Malloy took the stage at the Society Room in Hartford around 12:30 a.m. to announce what he believed would be a convincing victory over his Republican challenger Tom Foley.
“We don’t have the final numbers, but we know what the big numbers are. … We are going to win this thing,” Malloy said.
At the Hyatt in Greenwich Foley admitted to his supporters “we probably have lost this race, but I’m not going to confirm we’ve lost it until we’re sure we’ve lost it. When we’ve done that, we’ll call Gov. Malloy and let him know,” he said.
Part of Foley’s strategy in his rematch this year against Malloy was to increase his vote in Connecticut’s three largest cities: Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
Foley admitted he didn’t expect to win the cities, which lean toward Democrats, but he thought he could do about 2,000 votes better in each.
Neither campaign expected they would be in court for three hours Tuesday over possibly 10 of the 24 polling locations in Hartford opening without voter checklists.
Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman kept just two of those sites open till 8:30 p.m., an additional half-hour, Tuesday.
His decision relied on testimony offered by two witnesses from the polling sites at Bachelder School and the United Methodist Church. Schuman also called for an investigation into the missing voter lists.
Attorneys Gregg Adler and John Gale testified to having witnessed voters unable to vote because of the actions of the election officials in those locations.
In some cases people were reportedly turned away while others signed affidavits to verify their identities and vote without being checked off the voter list.
Republican Party spokesman Zak Sanders said the understanding was “that any issues at Hartford polling locations were resolved by 7 a.m. this morning.”
Representing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s campaign, attorney Herb Shepardson called three witnesses to the stand who visited polling places in Hartford that didn’t experience the problems.
Shepardson argued that any voters unable to vote at 6 a.m. still had plenty of time to return to the polls. “They vote at 6 a.m. cause they don’t like lines,” Shepardson said. “It doesn’t mean they can’t come back.”
The Election Day lawsuit brought by Democratic Gov. Malloy’s campaign sought a one-hour extension of voting in Hartford.
The governor was among those forced to wait – about 20 minutes to vote at the Hartford Seminary. After a rally in Manchester Tuesday morning, the governor had said “some of the districts may have been without those for the first hour and a half.”
It’s not yet clear how long it takes to print the list of about 60,000 registered voters for all of the city’s precincts with a working printer, or if the printer had been tested in advance of the Monday deadline. But once the lists were printed, they had to be transported from City Hall to all the polling places, and that’s apparently what was happening early Tuesday while people were waiting to vote.
State Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said that he was told by Garey E. Coleman, Hartford’s democratic deputy registrar of voters, that the equipment the registrars’ office uses to print its voter lists failed Monday night and there was no backup available.
Ritter said he did not believe the problem was citywide, but likely impacted five to 10 of the city’s 24 polling places.
Malloy said he was told that they were still printing the voting lists for the precincts at 5:15 a.m.
Though some polling places allowed voters to vote by signing an affidavit affirming their identity, others may have mistakenly turned away voters, Malloy said.
Schuman found in his ruling from the bench Tuesday evening that there was no alternative remedy, and people at these two locations “were denied the right to vote due to the fault of election officials and they were not offered alternatives.”
The Malloy campaign did not meet the burden of proof concerning the other locations, the judge found, pointing to testimony that the voter checklists arrived a half-hour late, giving any denied the right to vote enough time for a second chance.
William Bloss, an attorney Malloy’s campaign, said the violation “affected dozens of people in total.”
At one point during the three hours attorneys were in court Tuesday, Schuman asked Hartford Corporation Counsel Jonathan Beamon why the voter checklists were not given to election officials by 8 p.m. the night before the election.
Beamon told Schuman that he didn’t know. Schuman ordered the Secretary of the State’s office to conduct an investigation into how this could have happened.
The three Hartford Registrar of Voters were unable to be reached for comment Tuesday.
Schuman asked the media not to report the results of the election until after 8:30 p.m. so as to not influence voters at these locations.
Though he applauded the judge for taking action, Bloss said he said believed there were as many as 14 polling locations in Hartford that had a late delivery of the voter checklist. Some of the waits weren’t very long, however, the attorney added.
“Cases like this don’t make for great litigation because people are trying to run an election,” Bloss said. “They’re trying to get people into the polls and you’re trying to prove a case at the same time as you’re trying to get people to vote.”
The campaign was unable to pull in the moderators at the polling locations to testify in court because the election was still ongoing, Bloss said.
For Ritter, the predicament violated people’s constitutional rights. “Imagine going to a polling place in America and not being able to vote,” Ritter said. “This can’t be rectified for a lot of people.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill was among those who voted after signing an affidavit, said Av Harris, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office. Merrill voted at the Hartford Seminary at 6:15 a.m.
At 9:30 a.m. Harris said it was unknown how many voters may have been disenfranchised and turned away at what is typically a very “high traffic” time of day at the polls.
Not everyone may have known they were able to sign an affidavit to vote.
“We believe it’s a citywide problem, but we don’t know,” Harris said.
He said he was at a loss to explain why the city’s voting check-off lists weren’t prepared in advance.
“We can’t plan for a lack of preparation or incompetence,” Harris said. The Secretary of the State’s office has little constitutional authority over locally elected Registrars of Voters.
Bloss emphasized the requirement that municipal election moderators take possession of the voter checklist by 8 p.m. the day before the election.
There are some laws that are ambiguous, but “this is not one of them,” the attorney said.
Malloy held a news conference at 4 p.m. in Hartford, where he was joined by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, to encourage Hartford residents to go out to vote despite early morning problems.
President Barack Obama, who visited this state on Sunday to stump for Malloy, lent a hand in Hartford as well by calling in to WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show.
“Don’t be discouraged, Hartford, if you had some problems this morning,” Obama said. “Please go vote. Do not give away your power. Do not buy into the notion that it doesn’t make a difference. It really does.”
A failure by the Bridgeport Registrar to print enough ballots – just 21,000 for about 69,000 registered voters – brought the two campaigns to court in 2010.
Judge Marshall Berger decided to keep polls open until 10 p.m. that day in order to give the city time to photocopy ballots to distribute to voters who were waiting in line to vote. Berger’s order was the only existing Connecticut case law on extending voting hours before Tuesday.
- Doc Martens
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