Capitol Connection: Protecting Voter Rights in CT

May 1, 2015

Protecting the rights of voters is a fundamental responsibility of our state. In recent years, Election Day mishaps have exposed problems in our system and challenged the fulfillment of that obligation. This year the legislature is looking at new ways to fix the system and better protect voters.

The Importance of Protections

On Election Day 2014, some voters in Hartford were in for a challenging day. Many arrived at the polls early in the morning, only to find that they had to wait to vote. And wait they did – some for more than an hour. Others left before voting. As many as 10 polling locations were not ready for voters when they arrived at 6 am because voter registration lists were not delivered on time.

As a result, the state found itself in court that day, in a mad rush to extend the hours for voting at the locations that opened late.

It was a scramble, it was confusing, and it was unfair to voters. It was also reminiscent of the 2010 debacle in Bridgeport that occurred when registrars did not order enough ballots, and extreme delays in voting and tabulation impacted half of the city.

Barriers to voting of any kind are completely unacceptable. One of the defining privileges of our nation’s democracy is that we all have a right to vote. This right is protected by law and must be equal for all. A delayed opportunity is a violation of opportunity. A delay in opening up polling locations, for example, prevents people from voting when others are able to. It’s not fair, and CT needs to do more to prevent similar situations from happening.

What We Can Do

Legislation before the General Assembly this year aims to resolve the issues that led to the Election Day problems at the voting booths in Hartford and the problems we saw in Bridgeport in 2010.

Senate Bill 1051 An Act Strengthening the State’s Elections currently has the support of registrars, the Secretary of the State and town clerks. The language is still being finalized, but in its current form this proposal would reform the elections process by instituting the following changes:

  • Requiring that all registrars go through a certification program and receive professional development training. More training for the people responsible for maintaining voting records and facilitating Election Day voting would help reduce the likelihood that registrars will make preventable mistakes, such as ordering too few ballots or completing tasks too late in the process.
  • Creating a process and standards for the temporary or permanent removal of a registrar. In the Hartford case, the city was not allowed to remove the registrars responsible for the errors due to a Superior Court ruling that said the city does not have the power to remove elected officials. Establishing a process for removal will hold registrars accountable for their work.
  • Requiring the Secretary of the State to investigate any elections complaints within 30 days and make a ruling within 90 days. Again, to enhance accountability.
    • Facilitating faster results by simplifying what registrars need to report on election night and allowing new technology to help calculate results.
    • Unifying all registration deadlines and reducing other confusion in the system.

These changes are a first step that I hope will go a long way to strengthening voter protections.

I look forward to seeing the final language of this bill and working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure Connecticut is doing everything it can to protect the basic rights of each and every citizen. It’s time to move forward and put Election Day mistakes of the past behind us for good.

Sen. Witkos, Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore, represents the 8th District towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. For more information visit or