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Weary Registrars Work Through Power Issues

by Hugh McQuaid | Nov 7, 2011 11:56am
(1) Comment | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2011, Energy, Weather

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Acting West Hartford Republican Registrar of Voters Gary McBride

With less than a day before municipal elections, registrars of voters across the state scrambled Monday morning to ensure elections could be held successfully, despite close to 60,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers remaining without power.

In West Hartford, 41 percent of customers were still in the dark following the devastating Oct. 29 snowstorm. Acting Republican Registrar of Voters Gary McBride said one of the town’s 20 polling places was still without power while another continued to go in and out.

McBride said that he was expecting both would be restored before voting booths open Tuesday morning. If not, there were contingency plans in place to post signs directing voters to Town Hall, which has power and ample parking, he said.

Overall, CL&P has been fairly responsive to the town’s requests, he said. But some of the estimates the utility gave them were not accurate, he said.

“We were a little concerned about some of the information we were getting,” he said.

Asked to describe the experience of trying to coordinate an election with so many residents in the dark, McBride said it was “hectic.”

“Myself, the Democratic Registrar, and town officials have been having meetings almost daily to make sure everyone is able to vote,” he said.

McBride, whose position is typically a two-day-a-week job, said he has been working five or six days a week.

“You do what’s necessary to let people be able to vote,” he said. “That’s our main objective here.”

The registrars office has been fielding phone calls from residents wondering whether the election had been delayed, he said. Many of those voters called from hotels outside of Connecticut, he said. Despite the continued outages and the fact that some residents have taken shelter out-of-state, McBride said he hoped the storm wouldn’t negatively effect voter turnout.

Ellington Republican Registrar Wanda DeLand said she wasn’t sure voting would be a priority for the 18 percent of customers in her town without power.

“I really don’t anticipate a great voter turnout. For those who don’t have power, voting is the last thing on their minds right now,” she said.

But for anyone who does want to vote, she said, the town’s two polling places are both up and running. That’s good news because there were concerns going in to the weekend that neither would have power, she said. Town officials held an emergency meeting on Friday with the First Selectman to discuss their options if the power was still out on Tuesday.

DeLand said coordinating the election this year was stressful, but said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office had been a great help by holding almost daily conference calls with municipal registrars.

On Nov. 1, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order extending the deadline for walk-in voter registration to Monday at noon. DeLand said a few residents had taken advantage of that extension.

Somers Democratic Registrar of Voters Joann Hornyak said residents there had not been registering during the extension. In Somers, 41 percent, more than 1,600 customers remained without power Monday morning.

But Hornyak said she didn’t think it would negatively impact voter turnout. The town’s single polling place had electricity and the voting machines were charged and tested, she said. For the residents sitting at home in the dark, voting on Tuesday may be a welcome activity, she said.

Hornyak said she’s been handling calls from residents and said signs were placed at a few places in town, letting people know the election will be held as normal. She said she hopes the continued outages won’t be too much of a distraction from the democratic process.

“I just hope people will come out and I hope they think long and hard about what they’re voting for,” she said.

Hornyak is still one of the Somers residents in the dark. She said she was relying on her cell phone to get her out of bed at 4 a.m. so she could “wash my face with some nice cold water.”

Still, Hornyak said its best to look at the last week with a little perspective.

“I traveled down to New Orleans six times for work. To watch what those people went through for more than a year after the storm with smiles on their faces. It could be much worse,” she said.

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posted by: ... | November 7, 2011  12:29pm

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Thankfully I got my absentee ballot information before the storm and sent it out this past Tuesday. I just hope it got through the mail to the correct address, considering all the closed roads and limited services. A big thank you goes out to my registrar. After emailing them once, I received 2 emails and a phone call with everything I needed to know.