The Courant hits some good points, yet ironically misses the mark on election accountability

Starting the year with a focus on accountability, the Courant Editorial Board overlooked integrity when it editorialized on elections. They also presented some ideas that we can and have supported <read>

Voting. Voters report to one of hundreds of precincts on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, unless they have a specific reason to apply for an absentee ballot. The system worked well when more women were at home and more people walked to the polls.

Should it be tweaked to fit the needs of the 21st century? Secretary of the State Denise Merrill thinks so, and she is right. With the technology available today, there’s no reason that online registration should not become the norm — and, as soon as it can be adequately secured, online voting. A voter should be able to get an absentee ballot for any reason.

We agree that online line registration is a good thing that can save money, increase convenience, and increase integrity.

But when it comes to unlimited absentee balloting and online voting we disagree.

After every election we hear stories from around the country of absentee ballot fraud. Here in Connecticut we have had several charges, prosecutions, and penalties in our largest cities involving absentee voting fraud.

We recently had a symposium hosted by the Secretary of the State with national experts pointing out the risks of online voting, even if it were restricted to military and overseas voters. Fortunately the Courant called for waiting until “as soon as it can be adequately secured” – that will likely be a long time away given that it would require the repeal of a major theorem of computer science.

It may be possible for towns to save money by using regional voting centers. Instead of voting on Tuesdays, how about weekend voting? Voting by mail may make sense. The idea is to have a robust debate over what will work best in Connecticut.

Perhaps we should have that robust debate – a robust debate with everyone at the table – more than a couple of op-eds at the Courant. If security is a concern and the debate includes election integrity advocates and security experts -with complete, fair coverage in the new media, old media, and  extensive legislative hearings we expect we would find it too risky for democracy.

Voting on weekends instead of Tuesday would, in our opinion, need to start with a U.S. Constitutional amendment. There is a reason for an set national day for Federal elections – so that all states vote on the same day, such that voting does not continue after partial results are known. There other issues to consider with weekend voting <see>.

Regional voting centers would be convenient. The convenience would come at a considerable price – perhaps towns would save money if the State paid for it. In our opinion, it would require a Connecticut Constitutional Amendment to allow the State to take over some of the town by town responsibility for voting. Watch for debates along the lines of redistricting debates about the number and locations of the regional voting centers.

Registrars. If voting is dragged into the 21st century, it then behooves us to ask if each and every town needs to continue spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on two registrars of voters. Would one nonpartisan registrar do the trick for a town — or even a regional registrar?

At the very least, the legislature must eliminate a quirk in the law that has caused Hartford to have three registrars. The law says the candidates for registrar of voters who garner the highest and second-highest number of votes win the posts. But if a major-party candidate — Democrat or Republican —- is not among the top two finishers, that candidate must also be named a registrar.

In 2008, a Working Families Party candidate outpolled the Republican registrar, meaning that both of them, along with the Democrat, are all registrars. The cost of the extra registrar approaches a quarter-million dollars, money the city can ill afford to waste. Change the law.

We agree with evaluating regional registrars – we support professional civil service election management – “doing for elections what we have done for probate”. It would also require a Constitutional Amendment and effective, deliberate planning.

But as we have pointed out before there are good reasons when registrars are political having the check and balance of two individuals of opposing parties. We also see the original logic in having three registrars in situations like Hartford. And as we have pointed out before there is no reason why Hartford had to increase total salaries and staffing just because a third registrar was elected.

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