This year, two candidates outside of the Democratic and Republican parties are running for a position as one of New Haven’s Registrars of Voters.
The registrars are in charge of coordinating voter registration and polling places — which have generated confusion this election cycle — and working in their local communities to help prospective candidates for public office. The position, by law, automatically gives a seat to the Democratic and Republican candidates running –– both Shannel Evans, the Democratic candidate, and Marlene Napolitano, the Republican candidate, are guaranteed to be registrars. This year, there are two third-party candidates seeking to become the third registrar. However, a third registrar position will only be created if one of the third-party candidates receives the first or second highest number of votes.
Sergio Rodriguez and Paul Garlinghouse are both running this year to create that third seat. Rodriguez is a registered Democrat, and Garlinghouse changed his registration from the Democratic Party to the Green Party this year.
Rodriguez, a native Floridian of Cuban descent, has been endorsed by the Working Families Party. He told the News he chose to run because he believes that he brings experience to the role. A former alder, he said he has been part of around 10 political campaigns and sat on the board of the National League of Cities, where he learned from other registrars in different states.
“I wanna be a registrar for everyone,” he told the News in an interview. “[I want] to make sure that the citizens of our city can have confidence in the office and be sure that the office is gonna work towards making sure that there are effective, efficient and safe elections every year.”
Rodriguez highlighted the major priorities of his campaign: being responsive to constituents, increasing voter registration and turnout, working collaboratively with the major party candidates and engaging with young people and voters. Recently, he spoke with students at Amistad High School about his plan to hold workshops about civic engagement and voting, which he said the students were “excited” about.
Green Party candidate Paul Garlinghouse, a former attorney from New Jersey, emphasized the need for candidates to have more access to information about running for office in New Haven. He cited his past difficulties with gaining information about voters and with learning how to get his name on the ballot.
“We don’t have what I would call grassroots democracy, because the system is fixed so that in most cases, the races are just with one candidate that’s been picked by a group of insiders,” Garlinghouse told the News. “Most of the races don’t have competition.”
Craig Sklar, a registered voter in Connecticut, agreed with Garlinghouse regarding the lack of access to information.
“Information is always one of the hardest things to get out there,” Sklar said. “Other ways to reach out to people that don’t have computer access is important.”
Garlinghouse also said that he thought the current system is not reflective of the New Haven community.
“It could be an appointed office,” Garlinghouse said. “I’m not trying to be registrar for the rest of my life. I’m trying to be registrar as part of a bigger plan to change the way democracy works in New Haven.”
Around 64 percent of eligible New Haven residents were registered to vote in the last presidential election.
Ángela Pérez | email@example.com