Bysiewicz: Secretary of the State powerless to enforce election laws, count ballots

Hartford Courant op-ed by Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of the State: Getting Vote Right Takes Time, Money <read>

In Connecticut, our Constitution and subsequent laws dictate that elections are the province of local government. So, the legal responsibility for carrying out elections falls squarely on the shoulders of our 169 municipalities. From large cities to tiny towns, all bear the same legal responsibility to plan for and execute our elections.

The secretary of the state’s office provides legal advice and guidance to cities and towns on how to interpret federal and state election mandates, and how those laws should be implemented. Ultimately, however, it is the democratically-elected, local registrars of voters who are empowered to make decisions about how elections are run. The secretary of the state has no legal authority to compel each town to follow the law, and the power to enforce election laws resides with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

We agree with Secretary Bysiewicz that we cannot look to her to deliver on voting integrity. Unfortunately what happened in Bridgeport, incidents across Connecticut, and the Coalition Audit Reports demonstrate that we also cannot rely on each and every one of the 339 elected registrars for voting integrity. Our best hope for integrity and confidence is the people and the media utilizing the Freedom Of Information Act, followed by future leadership by the next Secretary of the State and and action by the next Legislature.

We caution against patchwork solutions. The problem goes well beyond the number of ballots printed; voting integrity and confidence call for a much broader study and action than proposed by the current Secretary in this op-ed:

We must make sure that what happened in Bridgeport never happens again. I urge the General Assembly to pass and Governor-elect Malloy to sign a measure ensuring that a sufficient number of ballots are provided for every registered voter in Connecticut.

There are several problems associated with our election system, not the least of which is the city by city, town by town, variations in following unenforceable regulations and procedures promulgated by the Secretary along with unreliable election accounting. Reactive, patchwork thinking, lack of transparency, and resistance to change is what got us here in the first place. As we said in our recent editorial: Understand all the Symptoms, Explore the Options, Then Act

Update: CTPost article presents history of Connecticut law and how we got here and how other states determine the number of ballots to print:  Bridgeport voting mess puts focus on local control of elections <read>

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