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Election Reform Considered

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A typo on a local Connecticut election ballot has helped James J. Butler be elected to office when it was his father, James R. Butler, who was the candidate. (credit: Getty Images)

A typo on a local Connecticut election ballot has helped James J. Butler be elected to office when it was his father, James R. Butler, who was the candidate. (credit: Getty Images)

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Issuing permanent absentee ballots to certain disabled voters and allowing provisional ballots in state and municipal elections are among a host of changes to Connecticut’s election laws being considered during this year’s legislative session.

Some proposals up for discussion at Monday’s public hearing before the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee attempt to help save municipalities money with their election expenses. One bill, for example, would allow small towns with populations of fewer than 20,000 people to reduce the number of polling places they must staff for primaries.
“Sometimes you just have a much smaller voter turnout for a primary than for a general election,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said. “As such, a town may not need to staff and run as many polling places for a primary as they do a general. Reducing the number of polling places would definitely save towns money, and in general we support the idea.”

Some local election officials urged the GAE Committee to extend the legislation to municipalities with larger populations.

Sue Larsen, the Democratic registrar of voters in South Windsor, estimated her town of 26,000 people could likely save about $1,100 per primary if it was allowed to combine some polling places. Urania Petit, the registrar for the Working Families Party in Hartford, said the state’s capital city could also save money by consolidating polling places, considering its record of low voter turnout for primaries.

Merrill, however, said she has some concerns about reducing the number of polling places in cities because some residents may not own cars and currently walk to vote.
The secretary urged lawmakers to support a bill allowing provisional ballots in state and municipal elections. Currently, they are only available in federal elections for voters who are registered but for some reason their name doesn’t appear on the voter list.

Merrill said provisional ballots allow voters whose registration is in doubt to still vote on Election Day. They are not counted until it can be determined the person is legitimately registered to vote.

She is also backing bills that continuously supply permanently disabled voters with an absentee ballot, as opposed to an application they need to fill out before every election, and require that local registrars have access to the Internet. She said there are still some registrars in the state who cannot get onto the Internet from their offices.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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