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State Election System Needs Improving, From Ballot Shortage To Counting Third-Party Votes

Susan Campbell

November 09, 2010

In a brief phone conversation Monday morning, Av Harris at Connecticut's secretary of the state's office must have said "we have a small staff in the elections department" three times.

The state's midterm election last week was a pig pile. Bridgeport election officials didn't order enough ballots, and a judge ruled the city's polls stay open an extra two hours. Then a bag of uncounted ballots was discovered in Bridgeport. Election officials counted through the night, and the official tally which gave the advantage to Democratic candidate Dannel Malloy was posted online by the secretary of the state's office Friday afternoon.

On Monday, the Connecticut GOP announced that it would seek an investigation into the Bridgeport Bungle; that afternoon, Republican candidate Tom Foley said he would not pursue a recount, or a legal challenge to the close election. He ended a press conference to phone Malloy to congratulate him.

That was classy, if you ask me. It only takes one snafu to make people question the system, and this go-round, we had several. Midweek last week, some people who voted for Todd Vachon, a University of Connecticut graduate student who was the write-in candidate for U.S. senator on the Socialist Party ticket, logged on to the secretary's website and did not see their votes.

Voters in Salem, East Lyme and beyond e-mailed Vachon, who urged people to be patient. Every one should be counted, he said, although there wouldn't be many. Vachon did not run an active campaign as he did in '08, when he campaigned to show the difference between Sen. Barack Obama, whom he calls a "hedge-fund Democrat," and a real Socialist who supports, said Vachon, "single-payer, public health care, ending the wars, and bringing tax dollars and troops home."

Patience is exactly what it took, because by later Monday - working as fast as they could hand-entering the write-ins, just as Harris promised Vachon votes began showing up online, although one voter who'd contacted Vachon said he was told by someone in the secretary of the state's office that Hartford officials didn't start counting write-in votes until Monday six days after the election.

Vachon acknowledged that he hadn't a shot at winning, but it's the principle of the thing. Sometimes, "the principle of the thing" is the last-ditch argument in a lost cause, but in this case, it means something. By way of explanation, Harris said, "It's very important to get all the results up there quickly for the citizens of Connecticut to see, but we had an extraordinary situation, and we made a decision to shift priorities in order to get the results for the governor's race."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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