Postcards Give Some Voters Wrong Directions
by Paul Bass | Aug 9, 2012 4:16 pm
Posted to: City Hall, Politics, Campaign 2012
Republicans were told to vote in the Democratic primary. Some Democrats were told to report to new voting districts, others to old ones.
That was the upshot of a mass mailing of 46,000 postcards the city sent this week to registered voters to inform them where to report next Tuesday for statewide primary elections.
Confused voters have inundated their political leaders and downtown government staffers with questions after receiving the postcards. In some cases, they received the right cards but were confused because of the recent redistricting of polling places. In other places, someone screwed up, and new cards and letters with the right information went out Thursday.
The biggest mistake: All 2,364 Republicans received postcards informing them they can vote in next Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, which for most of the city involves just the race between U.S. Senate candidates Chris Murphy and Susan Bysiewicz.
Allegra Design of Grand Avenue, which printed those cards, agreed to print up a new batch and send them out Thursday at no cost to the city.
Allegra made a mistake in the original printing, according to owner Bob Fraulo.
He called the mistake “human error.”
“We thought we had coded the list to change ‘Democrat’ to ‘Republican’ in the merge,” he said. “That didn’t happen.”
GOP Town Chairman Richter Elser’s phone started ringing as soon as party members received the wrong cards Wednesday afternoon.
“I was just sort of annoyed,” he said. “It’s hard enough to get Republicans in New Haven to get motivated to go out and vote.” If they do vote, they’ll decide between Linda McMahon and Chris Shays in next week’s GOP U.S. Senate primary.
Meanwhile, the registrar of voters office Wednesday and Thursday heard from lots of the city’s 44,159 registered Democrats.
Anyone still confused about where to vote can call the registrars of voters at 203-946-8035.
Many Democrats were told to report to new voting places this year, different from where they have voted in the past. That’s because the state has redrawn state legislative boundaries and the city drew new ward boundaries this year for local elections. In coming years, some voters will be voting at one polling place for municipal elections in odd-numbered years and different spots for state and national elections in even-numbered years. Some voters in the Annex neighborhood, for instance, will vote in Wooster Square some years, the Annex in other years. Some East Rockers have been moved to Ward 19, where they’ll vote at Celentano School for municipal elections, but also to the 96th General Assembly District, meaning they’ll head to Wilbur Cross High School for statewide elections.
For instance, some members of East Rock’s “SoHu” neighborhood have become part of downtown’s Ward 7 rather than Wooster Square’s Ward 8. They got postcards telling them to report to 200 Orange St. to vote. That confused some voters, partly because some thought the new ward boundaries wouldn’t take effect until next year. City Republican Registrar of Voters Rae Tramantano said her office decided to implement the new boundaries now rather than wait to do it at the last minute after the hectic November presidential election.
However, some people still got the wrong information.
For instance, students at Southern Connecticut State University will now become part of Ward 30 rather than Ward 29. But they got postcards telling them to vote as usual next Tuesday in Ward 29. No one has complained, so officials decided to keep it that way just for the primary.
Similarly, the Jocelyn Square neighborhood remained part of Ward 8 in the redistricting this year. But neighbors got postcards saying to vote at Wilbur Cross High School, the spot for Wards 9 and 10. They will vote there just for this election, according to Tramantano.
In those cases, it was simpler to avoid any more confusion because where people vote won’t have an impact on the election, she noted. That’s because there are no primaries in either party for New Haven’s state legislative seats. (The one exception is a newly gerrymandered sliver of the Hill which has become part of West Haven’s 116th state representative district.)
Democratic Registrar of Voters Sharon Ferrucci did prepare a letter Thursday to send to voters on Clark Street, which like other parts of SoHu have moved from Ward 8 to Ward 7 in the redistricting. They received word of the wrong voting place, and some called the registrars in confusion, so the registrars decided to correct that error.
The Democratic errors happened because of lines drawn on a redistricting map by a Board of Aldermen consultant made it look like the SoHu and SCSU voters were in the wrong ward, according to the registrars.
Another error involved High Street, already a bastion of bizarre districting. Parts of the short street fall in Wards 1, 7 and 22. That’s still true, but the breakdown has changed. One voter who lives above a barbershop happens to be the alderwoman in Ward 1, Sara Eidelson. She got a postcard telling her she now votes in Ward 7.
Just a mistake, according to the registrars.
This is just a dry run for the general election, in which New Haven voters will have to start getting used to a patchwork of districts that change based on the election. That’s because state legislative districts were largely not drawn to conform to local ward boundaries; that process produced the state’s largest number of municipal voting districts, which in turn will produce a regular (and expensive) bureaucratic headache to administer. Stay tuned. The registrars will be busy, and people will be confused.
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When I moved to Westville from West Haven seven years ago, I called the registrar of voters about changing my registration.
I was told that I needed to come to City Hall Monday thru Friday, 9AM to 5PM.
“I have to physically come in?” Yes. “No other way?” No. “What if I can’t get off the job to get crosstown on the bus?” Sorry. I hung up before I had a fit.
Called back the next day. They said the same thing. “There are city things I can do online. Are you sure registering to vote isn’t one of them?” No.
Through clenched teeth I said, “You know, every other place I’ve lived let me register by mail.”
Ooooh, they said, by mail. Well, if you really want to.
“And you didn’t tell me this yourself because…”
“Well, it takes a long time. First we have to get your address and send the form to you and then you have to fill it out and send it back to us. And you never know about the mail.”
We executed the long procedure and the mail worked—overnight—both ways.
These aren’t “errors,” these aren’t “mistakes,” these aren’t “annoyances.” This is willful ineducability and the criminal obstruction of voting rights.
posted by: Lisa on August 9, 2012 9:09pm
Clark St residents who were part of ward 9 before redistricting were made a part of ward 7. However, the cards they received in the mail told them they are part of ward 8, and that they should vote at Conte school. How did that happen? And why would a decision be made to change polling places before the first of the year, but no put out publicity that this is happening? The alder people that we called were as puzzled as those receiving the cards. Shouldn’t the goal be to get as many people out to vote as possible? I bet people will show up at the wrong places, get turned away and then choose to not vote because they are annoyed or angry or a host of reasons.
posted by: Doug Hausladen on August 10, 2012 10:18am
There will be a citywide GOTV operation this weekend starting at 10am on Saturday. Some folks will be meeting at the Chris Murphy campaign office on Whalley to canvass the city - come out and help! Let’s get a turnout for Tuesday’s primary and help correct the errors made in the mailing by going door to door and dropping off the correct information.