It takes but a minute to cast a ballot, but Connecticut’s preparations for Election Day have been a long time in the making.
Officials are forecasting a record-breaking voter turnout this year in the Constitution State. State-issued reports have predicted that as many as 90 percent of the over 2 million registered voters will cast a ballot Tuesday.
Already, both presidential campaigns have accused the other of some level of voter fraud, making the preparations for Election Day imminently important. State officials are insistent that new technological measures will ensure accurate tabulation. But with more voters come more potential for hiccups — and holdups — next week.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said her office has taken action to streamline the entire election process over the past two years.
Residents who did not vote in last year’s municipal elections, for example, will for the first time use the state’s new optical-scanning paper ballots.
Bysiewicz said pilot tests began on the new voting machines in the 2006 general election before making their way into every polling place in the state by the 2007 municipal elections. Accompanying the new machines was also a full-scale educational campaign utilizing a multimedia approach to familiarize voters with the new technology.
“Every Connecticut voter received a brochure in their mailbox [and] over 100,000 newspaper inserts,” she said. “We created a micro Web site, vote-ez-ct.com, with both English and Spanish demonstration videos, and every polling place will have DVDs showing the demonstration videos on site.”
Many registered voters interviewed said they were worried about long lines at polling places, but Bysiewicz said the new ballot method will speed the process.
“Some locations used to have three lever machines; now they may have over a dozen privacy booths to fill out ballots,” she said. “This will also speed our vote tallying; at 8:01 we can print out the vote counts as opposed to counting how many votes each candidate got by hand.”
Still, there are fears nationwide that both registration and tabulation errors could swing the election.
At the last presidential debate, for example, Sen. John McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama of trying to “steal” the election. McCain was referring to Acorn, a group that works to register low-income communities and was recently revealed to have made around 400,000 duplicate or fraudulent registrations.
On Oct. 17, legal representatives for the Obama campaign wrote to the both the United States Attorney General, Michael Mukasey LAW ’67, and the acting United States Attorney for Connecticut, Nora Dannehy, accusing the Republican Party of suppressing votes.
“When it comes to charges of ‘voter fraud’ and ‘vote suppression,’ each election is worse than the last,” Loyola Law School professor Richard Hasen wrote earlier this week on the Web site Slate.
But Bysiewicz said she hoped the new technology would help make voting more tamper-proof. She pointed out that compared to electronic machines, paper ballots make it easy for voters to confirm their choices and for election workers to count votes by hand in the event of a major malfunction. The state has also recruited students from several community colleges to bolster staffing at polling locations; Bysiewicz noted that there will be hundreds more poll workers than in 2004.
Tuesday was the final day to register to vote in the state, and by 3:30 p.m., over 350 New Haven residents had registered in person at City Hall, according to Rae Tramontano, the Republican Registrar of Voters.
Adam Joseph, a spokesperson for the secretary of the state, said final registration figures may not be available until Monday but speculated that October voter registration might top 100,000, which he called “simply amazing.”
Connecticut polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4.