Why Should Hartford Taxpayers Pay For Party Primaries?
Hartford Courant Editorial
March 09, 2012
The flap over funding party primaries in Hartford says much about the city's archaic and expensive election system.
With a Democratic town committee primary held this past Tuesday and a Republican presidential primary coming up on April 24, the Democratic and Republican registrars of voters requested about $110,000 and $90,000, respectively, from the city council.
The council, looking down the maw of a potential $56 million budget shortfall, cut the requests back to the bare legal minimums, awarding $65,700 to the Democrats and $53,900 to the GOP. This caused Republican registrar Salvatore Bramante to charge that the council's allotment was so inadequate that the city won't be able to hold the primary. (It will hold the primary.)
First issue: Why are the taxpayers paying for a Democratic town committee primary at all? Shouldn't that be a party obligation?
Second issue: The city has about 1,800 registered Republicans. In the 2010 primary, 23 percent turned out. The city opens 23 polling places for such primaries. If the turnout is the same as in 2010, that is 18 voters per polling place.
Perhaps with legislative districts being redrawn this year, the council should look at reducing the number of polling places equitably across city neighborhoods, keeping the ones where a substantial number of voters are able to walk to the polls. Elections don't need to eat up so much money.
For example, due to a quirk in state law, Hartford is saddled with a completely needless third registrar of voters, at a total cost approaching a quarter of a million dollars a year. Why towns even need two registrars is not clear.
Change is coming, and cannot come soon enough. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has proposed a constitutional amendment that will allow the state to consider different forms of non-precinct voting.
As registration and voting are hauled however reluctantly into the digital age, voting should become more convenient and less expensive.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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