New London – The discussion about expanding the number of constituencies has resurfaced due to a disappointing turnout in the presidential election here.
The turnout of 55% of New London voters was sharply below the state's record 79%. Surrounding cities saw even higher numbers than the state average, which was partly supported by the fact that absentee ballots were available to all voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City councilor James Burke discussed the topic of voter expansion this week during a one-hour electoral debriefing with officials from the constituency of the constituency office.
Burke had previously inquired with the city attorney about how an extension could be achieved and said on Tuesday that the answer is a city council ordinance.
“At the end of the day, we want to make it easier for people to vote, easier for them to commute to a polling station”, along with shorter queues and the ability for people in the north of the city to vote as easily as it's in the south of the city, Burke said.
Burke, who also served as campaign manager for State Representative Anthony Nolan, D-New London, said it was something he would pursue, but the most sensible time would be after the last census data is released. The data will redraw the state's legislative districts, and any proposed changes for New London should follow those lines, he said.
The city reduced the number of constituencies from seven to three in 2009 as a cost-effective measure. It estimated it could save about $ 12,000 per election.
Burke said that at least one additional polling site is needed in District 1, the city's largest, to make it easier to walk to a polling station and ensure voters are not deprived of their right to vote. He cited numbers showing the significant walking distances – 45 minutes in one case in District 1 – for some voters in the eastern part of the city. He said that in many cases the farthest houses from the polling stations are lower income areas. In the last election there were 16,996 registered voters.
“In essence, the poorest people in our city have the hardest time to go to the polls and the richest people in the city have the easiest time to go to the polls,” Burke said.
Democratic voter clerk Bill Giesing said during Monday's meeting with the city council that there was little change in turnout as the city dropped four of its districts.
“The number of people leaving for seven neighborhoods was identical. There was no change after we went to the three districts, ”said Giesing.
Giesing said some of it, he suspects, is the transitory nature of the urban population.
"I don't think the polls are the problem. It's the way people move or their reluctance to get out," said Giesing. "I don't think I understand myself. Looked at those years and I can't say why it happens. "
Giesing suggested that expected changes in state voting laws that allow for more absentee ballots, coupled with better education, could be the answer.
It is not the first time that the expansion of available voting places has been discussed. The City Council voted in 2014 to expand District 1 to three polling stations and District 2 to two locations for a total of six. Councilors, including Council President Efrain Dominguez, had expressed similar concerns at the time about depriving voters.
However, the Secretary of State considered the move unlawful because state law prohibits a city from having more polling stations than constituencies.
The clerks also discussed an Election Day accident in District 2, where some voters were given ballots from District 3, which is part of the 41st State House District, during Monday's debriefing. District 1 and 2 vote in the 39th House District.
Voting machines rejected the ballots and the registry office, using new software that tracks votes in real time, tried to contact voters to get them back to issue new ballots. The accident involved a package of 100 ballots that was picked up by a voter after about 70 ballots had been cast.
Giesing and Republican Clerk Rob Pero said the office was investigating the use of color-coded ballots to avoid future confusion.
. (tagsToTranslate) New London CT (t) Local elections (t) Voting (t) Municipal elections