NEW BRITAIN - The sheer numbers of voters contributed to delays in getting election results out, but otherwise, area registrars reported few problems on the scale that other municipalities faced during Tuesday’s election.
“I don’t think any election is totally without incidents, but we had no major ones,” said New Britain Democratic Registrar Lucian Pawlak.
By 8 p.m., 53 percent of eligible voters had cast a ballot, including roughly 260 people who registered that day, Pawlak said.
The election, which focused on the gubernatorial race, state House and Senate races and a U.S. Senate race, drew nearly as many voters as the presidential election two years ago, officials said.
Local poll workers were warned to be prepared, state officials said. But in some cases, a lack of staff, the wet weather and a lack of ballots hampered efforts to get voters through quickly.
College students trying to register, a good turnout and heavy rain all contributed to delays and controversies at the polls statewide, according to the Secretary of the State’s Office.
Students from Yale University and the University of Connecticut jammed the polls in New Haven and Mansfield, respectively, looking to register on Election Day, said Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s Office.
The lack of adequate staff to handle Election Day registrants created hours-long delays and prompted Republicans to file an injunction to have some ballots at those locations set aside, Rosenberg said.
Many of the students from other states had not received absentee ballots from their home states but are eligible to vote in Connecticut elections since they are living in the state while attending college, he said.
Only 200 to 300 ballots wound up in question. It is unclear if they will be counted since Democrat Ned Lamont won the gubernatorial election by more than 25,000 votes, Rosenberg said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, our office had already asked that those ballots be segregated,” he said. “There is a Friday hearing date to determine if they will be counted, but it may be a moot point.”
The ballots in question had been cast by people who possibly were registered after 8 p.m., he said. Election Day registrants are required by law to be registered by 8 p.m.
The problem in New Haven was not that people showed up at the last minute, as some waited as long as four hours to register.
It had to do with the lack of staff to handle the Election Day registrations, Rosenberg said.
“For much of the day, they only had two staff members handling the registrations,” he said. “The lesson to come out of this is to make sure there is enough staff.”
Some towns ran out of ballots but were able to quickly get more since a distributor is located in Connecticut, Rosenberg said.
Other issues centered on the heavy rain and heavy turnouts which wound up wetting some ballots when people dripped onto the paper ballots, Rosenberg said. “When the ballots got wet, the tabulators got jammed,” he said. “They were replaced with new tabulators which also got jammed. Those ballots had to be hand counted at the end of the night.”
New Britain had no problems with wet ballots since staff had been trained to make sure all ballots were dry and clean before being placed in voting machines, Pawlak said. There were a couple of polling places that had lines because there weren’t enough privacy booths for voters to fill out their ballots, Pawlak said. Once additional booths were added, the lines disappeared. Pawlak didn’t believe that any polling places had people waiting to vote after 8 p.m. “In most cases, they had a one or two minute wait to vote,” he said. New Britain had 17 precincts with 17 moderators and runners who had to make it back to the Registrar’s Office to get the vote tallies counted. Most runners came back their results between 10 and 11 p.m., Pawlak said. One didn’t come back until about 12 a.m., he added. “Overall I think it was a very successful election,” Pawlak said.
Southington officials were still counting as of 10:30 p.m. due to the volume of people who voted, said Democratic Registrar Thomas Janik. “We had in the low seventies for the percentage of people who voted,” he said. “That was about 10 percent more than the last mid-term election in 2014.”
The hold-up in the Southington votes led to a hold-up in announcing the winner of the 30th District State Representative race between Democratic incumbent Joe Aresimowicz and Republican challenger Michael Gagliardi who entered the race in the final weeks. Aresimowicz received 2,180 votes in Southington and 3,712 votes in Berlin while Gagliardi received 2,437 votes in Southington and 3,418 votes in Berlin. The district encompasses most of Berlin and parts of Southington. Aresimowicz won by 37 votes. The race is expected to be recounted.
The fact that there was a Republican candidate in the race prior to Gagliardi, complicated matters, Janik said. Moderators who were tallying votes, including absentee ballots, had to make sure that the votes were for Gagliardi or Aresimowcz and not the Republican candidate who dropped out, he said.
There were also four questions on the Southington ballot, Janik said. Two were questions on state initiatives and two were questions on town initiatives. “The moderators came back later than normal,” Janik said. “It was the volume, it was pretty extraordinary.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.