Case in point: the line of voters at Hartford’s City Hall on Tuesday. The silver lining is that people were fired up enough to wait for hours to cast a vote, knowing they could not weigh in on the ballot question or any of the candidates running for a position other than President.
But the silver lining is not the whole story.
Walking alongside the line that ran the length of the atrium, down the stairs, and into the basement, it was hard not to wonder: what is going on in Hartford that this many residents have not registered, moved and not updated their information with the Registrar of Voters, or have encountered some other difficulty that would require them to go downtown and spend hours to vote? How have some, who registered and voted in the 2008 election, found themselves removed from the lists despite not moving at all? How is it that hundreds of students who have long since graduated from local colleges and universities remain on the lists, while long time residents who have relocated to another part of the city encounter these challenges?
If Hartford had been wrecked by the late October hurricane, this kind of controlled chaos would be expected. But aside from a handful of property losses, Hartford was thankfully unscathed.
It all makes one question the adequacy of training for poll workers and the registrar of voters, as well as the amount of outreach to the public before Election Day.
Yet another question raised by this past election is about the fear of the “third party” particularly by Republicans. There was outcry about the Registrar of Voters situation in Hartford. Though politicians and political news junkies alike have noted that two of the three current Registrars are redundant — to put it kindly — others have spoken out about this voting process, suggesting that citizens would be easily confused because the law in Connecticut states that the two major parties and two candidates with most votes get the positions. In Hartford, Working Families Party candidate Urania Petit, appears to have earned more votes than Republican candidate Salvatore Bramante, but fewer than Democrat Olga Iris Vazquez. The result? The city retains all three for the time being.
But the paranoia about the third party is evident. Are Republicans using other parties as scapegoats for their own failure — locally and nationally — to rally voters? In Hartford, so few politically savvy Republicans have campaigned in recent years that even those inclined to vote along party lines have trouble stomaching their options.
Is reducing the alternative parties to “socialists,” as if this were a slur, a sign of some Republicans’ fear that extremists in their own party will splinter off, taking votes away from more moderate fiscal conservatives? For Hartford, this seems like an outlandish concern, but on the national level where voters have just loudly spoken against rape apologists and their ilk, there is worry that those type of rejected candidates will remove themselves from the Republican Party. Giving voters the idea that third party candidates are legitimate might just give the boost needed to others considering moving away from the Republicans.
In Hartford, where three on the City Council, two on the Board of Education, and one of the Registrar of Voters are from the Working Families Party and where there are no remaining Republicans on City Council, it is not farfetched to expect a collapse of the Republican Town Committee.
Yet there are areas where the strong third party in Hartford failed to step up. How was Minnie Gonzalez allowed to run unopposed in the 3rd Assembly District where she is the State Representative? Calling her a controversial figure is an understatement.
We have been given the message that it is our civic duty to vote, but it is an impure process needing scrutiny so that fewer people experience voter suppression and outright disenfranchisement. While some are determined to cast votes, others do not have the hours to spare waiting in lines and even fewer are motivated to vote at all when, still, they have been taught to believe their perspectives, their voices, do not matter.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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