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A week later, Connecticut Finally Posts Last Local Return for Election 2013

by Christine Stuart | Nov 12, 2013 5:29am
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2013, Election Policy, Town News, North Canaan, Local Politics

As of Monday evening, North Canaan was the only town whose election results were still missing from the Secretary of the State’s website, almost a week after the Nov. 5 municipal elections. They were posted Tuesday morning.

A handful of other towns snuck in just under Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline to avoid being fined $50 for failing to provide their results to the state in a timely fashion. But without the official voting data from every town, it’s impossible to glean an accurate statewide voter turnout figure for Election 2013.

Of course, the returns were due at the SOTS’s office by 6 p.m. the day after the election, but dozens of towns missed that initial deadline and submitted their information in the days following.

Monroe, Middlebury, Naugatuck, and Watertown submitted their returns Friday before the deadline, according to the time stamps on documents uploaded to the website.

So, aside from not having a statewide voter turnout percentage, the returns also happen to be posted on the SOTS’s website in PDF format. While this is an improvement over the results not being posted, it’s still not easy to work with. Many of the results appear to have been written by hand before they were faxed. This essentially means that the only way to find out how many bubbles were filled across the state for a given party is to open all 165 documents and to enter the totals into a spreadsheet one at a time.

And it’s still unknown exactly how many people registered to vote that day.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she was disappointed in the tardy response from local registrars since her staff was ready to upload the returns as soon as they arrived at her office. She said the uploading of election returns as PDFs was an attempt to bring transparency to the electoral process.

Last week’s election marked the second year in which the state attempted to pilot a real-time, web-based reporting system intended to replace the laborious and outdated process utilizing paperwork and fax machines to collect the data. Merrill said the system was designed for about $100,000 by PCC Technology Group, which has an office in Bloomfield.

Last year, a handful of towns participated. This year, some 32 tried the software but only 13 of those were able to submit their head moderator results using the program. That means there were 19 towns that logged in and filed at least one moderator’s return, but did not finish the process by submitting the head moderator’s return. Some of the problem was related to the availability of wifi at specific polling locations. Completing the real-time results via the Internet also wasn’t mandatory, so there was no incentive to use the web-based form.

Merrill said Monday in a phone interview that PCC’s software did not have a field for inputting Election Day Registration numbers and, since every town ballot is different, PCC had difficulty coding all the new information.

Merrill said there were language barriers in describing exactly what each town needed for their ballot. She said she believes PCC’s system will work better next year because there will be fewer variations between ballots in a statewide election.

“I hope more people use it next year,” Merrill said.

She said she was upset this year turned out the way it did because she doesn’t want technology to hinder attempts to get real-time election results.

Last year, Merrill didn’t express much confidence that she would be able to get all the local registrars to submit their returns electronically.

“I don’t have any hope of convincing all the registrars, but quick results mean more public confidence in our election system,” Merrill said.

The statute requires registrars to deliver results by 6 p.m. the following day, but despite the relative autonomy of each municipal registrar of voters, she added that the statute says the Secretary of the State can decide how results are to be delivered.

“All I can do is keep hammering on it,” Merrill said. “At some point, we’ll unplug the fax machines and call the question. At least that might get them to use email.”

But on Monday, Merrill expressed little confidence — after this year’s performance — that she will be able to get any better cooperation from the registrars.

Merrill’s office has paid the company more than $2.31 million over the past two years, but the real-time reporting project was priced about $100,000.

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(8) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | November 12, 2013  6:58am

art vandelay

It’s interesting that after the “Hanging Chads”  incident in Florida,  the liberals felt that George W stole the election from Al Gore. The result was a massive push to modernize the voting system across the country.  The time tested and true voting machine was thrown out in favor of going back to 18th Century technology, the paper ballot. Suzie B and the liberal Democrats in Hartford quickly embraced the electronic counting machine.  Our new system in Connecticut is so good, it takes close to a week to analyze the results.  In 2010 the system was so good, Suzie B went to court at the last second to extend voting in Bridgeport so Danno M would have enough votes to steal the election from Tom Foley.  In retrospect the old voting machines did their job and kept our elections honest by eliminating the human element from they system.  Yes they were old & clumsy, but they worked.  At least you knew your vote was counted properly.  Heck these new machines do not even have a beep or light indicating it counted your ballot.  Yes there is a number counter, but you can hardly see it.

posted by: Luther Weeks | November 12, 2013  11:06am

Luther Weeks

1) The lever machines did not always work, often officials fixed the machines or covered up the problems in the back room.

2) In 2005 or 2006 a Middletown race had to be rerun because of a machine malfunction that, retrospectively had not worked for several previous elections, undetected.

3)Paper ballots and scanners allow counting, auditing, and recanvassing of votes when there is a suspected human or machine malfunction.

4) The online data entry system needs to allow results to be checked thoroughly before they are input and allow individuals to assist our 800 tired Moderators with data entry, to make it effective and ACCURATE.

5) Lack of automation is not the cause of results delayed for days. Maybe a few extra hours, but not days. Nothing has changed in years in the way results are reported - so there is some other reason for delays this year, in particular towns.

posted by: art vandelay | November 12, 2013  1:24pm

art vandelay

I agree with your views regarding the old voting machines.  Yes there were mechanical difficulties, but the new system is no better. I don’t trust it one bit. Too many variables inviting voter fraud.  Bridgeport was a prime example.

posted by: robn | November 12, 2013  5:29pm

To communicate basic election results, the registrar of the largest city in CT only has to send the SOS a few numbers….fewer numbers than a long distance phone call.

Why is that so hard?

posted by: robn | November 12, 2013  5:34pm

New Haven had about 20,000 votes. If I personally flipped through the paper ballots, counting them one per second, it would take me about five and a half hours to count them.

Why would any town’s counting take a full day nevermind a week?

posted by: Christine Stuart | November 12, 2013  5:45pm

Christine Stuart

Robn
To be fair it looks like New Haven submitted an amended return on Nov. 8, but they had submitted a previous one. However, it was taken down so I can’t tell you when it was sent.
Here’s the linkif you want to check out the info.
Christine

posted by: robn | November 12, 2013  5:57pm

C,

I’m not criticizing New Haven; they did a good job and the revision you posted is incredibly close to election night announcements.

I’m using me counting New Haven votes as a thought experiment/example of one person counting a large amount of votes in a reasonably short amount of time.

Unless there is a super tight margin, every town should submit preliminary counts shortly after polls close.

Why Monroe, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Watertown and North Canaan took so long is incredibly strange.

posted by: Commuter | November 13, 2013  12:31am

The hanging chads incident, as Art Vandelay accurately characterizes it, was followed by a regional effort to actively block access to the ballot by the very individuals and interests that supported the retrograde W.

As Luther Weeks suggests, the system currently deployed in Connecticut permits a vote-by-vote audit when necessary - vastly superior to the mechanical voting machine it replaced, and embodying the virtues that (kind of ironically) Art Vandelay sneers at as “18th Century Technology.”

And let the comments recall, as the record shows, that “Susie B” favored the ridiculous ATM machine approach, which did not involve individual physical ballots. Grass roots activists defended the integrity of the vote, demanding that the current system be employed instead.

Unlike Gore, Tom Foley lost the election. Foley was in fact defeated by Malloy - the election wasn’t taken from him and awarded to his opponent as it was to W.

There was no fraud in Bridgeport, and there is nothing to suggest there was. Even Foley acknowledged that at the time, although his recent ill-considered remarks suggest he wishes he had been less ingenuous than he was in 2010. Vanity and bitterness do unfortunately things to a man.

You’re entitled to your own opinions, fella, not your own facts. And if your eyesight is adequate, you can read the voting machines as plain as this comment.