New Law Lures Over 200 New Voters

Cora Lewis PhotoUpdated: 10:07 pm. When 31-year-old Judia Phillips officially became a United States citizen five days ago, the judge gave her another piece of news: she would also be able to vote in the next election. Thanks to a new law, she was able to sign up to do that at the last moment.

For the first time in a Connecticut municipal election, citizens were able to register and vote on the same day. More than 200 people, including Phillips, had filled out registration forms and cast their ballots in New Haven as of 7 p.m., according to Moderator Kevin Arnold. In the past, in local and state elections, voters had to register in advance: seven days before an election if registering in person, 14 days if by mail.

Phillips, a certified nursing assistant who hails from Jamaica, registered to vote at City Hall around 11 a.m. Tuesday. She also cast a ballot there.

“Two thumbs up,” Yale student Laurel Cohen, 19, said about the experience of registering and voting in one go. She said had heard about same-day registration while canvassing and working on get-out-the-vote efforts for mayoral candidate Toni Harp. “I was sort of hoping this would take a while and I would have an excuse to be late for class,” she joked.

“When the law passed, it was not specified or required in the statute that the information be advertised,” said Cheri Quickmire, president of the Connecticut chapter of the nonprofit organization Common Cause, which dispatched volunteers to polling places in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and elsewhere Tuesday to gather information on the law’s implementation. Several voters said they had difficulty finding accurate information on the city registrar’s website and instead learned about same-day registration through news outlets or campaigns.

Kevin M. Galberth, 49, who is unemployed, said he heard about same-day registration on WTNH news Monday night. Sergio Rabino, 50, who works in construction, said he found out about the new system by word of mouth. Both called the experience efficient and pleasant.

While doing get-out-the-vote work for Democrat Sarah Eidelson’s aldermanic campaign in Ward 1, Rachel Payne, 25, learned she would be able register and vote in the same day. Payne has lived in New Haven for five years and recently moved from Winchester Avenue in Ward 22 to Orange St. in Ward 7. She said she knows the candidates in her new ward better, and the polling place is closer to where she lives, so she was happy to hear about the change.

Dennis Boughton, 70, who is wheelchair-bound, said he came into City Hall to use the bathroom and saw signs directing him towards the voting station, so he checked to see if he could register and vote at once. Lissette Miranda, 36, who also just learned of the same-day registration, said she would return later in the day with her daughter, who just turned 18. “She was frustrated that she wasn’t old enough to vote in the last election,” said Miranda. Now, same-day registration ensures her ability to participate as soon as she is legally qualified, without other deadlines to trip over.

Moderator Arnold said that the process had been running smoothly as of this evening, with elections officials in places such as West Haven and Shelton returning calls quickly to confirm that voters claiming change of address were no longer listed in their forming polling places.

“I’m very encouraged by these numbers,” said Quickmire. Less than an hour before the polls closed, an orderly line snaked out the door. Many present were Yale students, brought by friends volunteering for the campaigns in the competitive Ward 1 race. Some wore T-shirts bearing slogans of the Chandler and Eidelson camps.

Quickmire attributed the large number of new registrations in New Haven to the handful of contested elections here and the historic mayoral election.

“It isn’t gangbusters, but it’s going well,” said Arnold. “It’s our first time, so we didn’t know what to expect.”

The newly passed law was originally proposed 25 years ago, according to Quickmire. “It just hadn’t been made a priority,” she said.

Nine other states allow voters to register at their polling places on Election Day: Montana, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Hampshire.

Quickmire said she hopes that same-day registration might expand from one location in each city or town to every polling place – and that in the future, residents will be able to register through the state Department of Social Services as well.

“I had expected to get mostly people registering from Yale, Ward 1, East Rock – those places,” said Arnold. “But it’s really been a mixture of voters from across the city. It’s at least a 50-50 mix of Yale students and people from other places.”

In order to register, a resident must appear in person at City Hall (165 Church St.) and declare under oath that he or she has not already voted in this election. One must complete a voter registration form and provide ID (a birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security card, or photo college ID). If the ID doesn’t show one’s address, one must provide proof of residency with a piece of mail such as a utility bill, lease, paycheck, or property tax bill.

On average, the whole process of new registration and voting took less than five minutes.


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posted by: TheMadcap on November 5, 2013  4:04pm

Awesome. It’s about time we got same day registration.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 5, 2013  5:57pm

It’s interesting how we keep dumbing down the requirement to vote allowing people to fly by the seat of their pants, don’t comply with the rules, don’t set time aside to vote, to register, because it is a sacred right. It’s just about beating the bushes the day of and helping people make excuses for why they were too much of a lazy person to get their affairs in order. If they can get a drivers license, they can show up and vote. The same is true with absentee ballots which are now used as a matter of convenience not necessity and look at the alleged fraud now. This is no different.

posted by: robn on November 5, 2013  6:23pm

Its very interesting that there’s little to no evidence that standard party assumptions about same day registration are true, (Dems think same day registration gives them an advantage and increases turnout, Republicans think it puts them at a disadvantage and that it risks fraud.) The turnout boost exists but is modest. In the end I think that voters who either know the issues or don’t know the issues, will arrive at the polls in the same proportions.

Hopefully more people voting will make more people feel more connected to citizenship.

posted by: ChrisNHV on November 5, 2013  7:06pm

Noteworthy, why are you against people being able to vote? Because they might disagree with you? The rules say that you can register on election day, and that’s what people did - including myself. When I moved over the summer, I filled out the forms at the DMV and checked the boxes to update my voter registration too. I turned out to my polling place and found I wasn’t registered - so I went to City Hall and it was all cleared up. I know that I have been following races and questions and knew how I was going to vote. It’s unfortunate you assume otherwise of people who happen to register and vote on the same day.

posted by: TheMadcap on November 5, 2013  8:20pm

Yeah Noteworthy why don’t you want to make it simpler to vote. I don’t know if you know this, but your life experience isn’t everyone’s. Some people don’t particularly follow politics, some people put things that aren’t important off, other people just forget, life isn’t politics. And yeah, voting is a ‘sacred right’. Why stop at ignoring people you feel like don’t have their affairs in order. Let’s create tests to vote. If you’re not politicaly active enough to know who the majority and minority leaders are, as well as the speaker of the house as well as the party whips in the legislature, you’re not following politics enough to vote.