Hartford has wasted more than $1 million in the last five years on a top-heavy registrars of voters' office. The city has three registrars, while every other municipality in the state has two.
Under a law that apparently dates back to when the Socialist Party had a strong presence in the state, the candidates for registrar who garner the highest and second-highest number of votes win the posts. But if a major-party candidate -- Democrat or Republican -- is not among the top two finishers, that candidate must also be named a registrar.
In 2008, the Working Families Party candidate outpolled the Republican, so both, along with the Democrat, became registrars. The cost of each party registrar, with staff, benefits, etc., approaches $250,000 a year.
Hartford doesn't need, and cannot afford, three registrars of voters. Change, finally, is afoot. The city's charter revision commission switching to a sole nonpartisan professional appointed by the city council. The council recently adopted the proposal.
Two more things must happen. The change must be approved by voters in November, and the General Assembly must make a small change in state law. Hopefully the latter will follow shortly after the former.
The change is perhaps the most radical of revisions, all adopted by the council, which also include removing the mayor as a voting member of the board of education. Since the mayor still gets to appoint five of nine board members and remain as an ex officio board member, this does not appear to greatly reduce mayoral influence.
Another change would expand the powers and scope of the city's internal audit commission. The commission has been remarkably busy this year rooting out waste and should have the tools it needs. The revision also enables the creation of a public campaign financing mechanism, a nice idea when the city can afford it.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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