(Updated) Officials had to turn away 100 people who wanted to register and vote Tuesday, after a new law provided a lift for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and created a mob scene at City Hall.
The new law—which took effect last year—allows people to register to vote, and then cast a ballot, on Election Day.
Officials anticipated around 200 people coming to City Hall for Election Day Registration (EDR), based on last year’s turnout. Surprise: More than three times that amount showed up over the course of Election Day, overwhelming staffers and leaving some people waiting up to two hours to cast a ballot.
When the polls closed at 8 p.m., those in line who had completed the registration process were allowed to vote, but under state law moderators had turn the other 100 or so people away without a ballot. Six hundred nineteen people got to register and vote. (The official number was being tallied late Tuesday night.)
“It hurts” to turn away that many people who want to vote, said head Moderator Jonathan Einhorn (pictured).
He said the confusion at City Hall demonstrated a flaw in the new law: The state didn’t plan well for cities with larger populations to handle so many last-minute voters or to tally all the submitted ballots afterwards. Ballot-counters hunkered down for a long night of counting at the 200 Orange St. office building, with reinforcements called in to supplement a crew already tasked with tallying machine votes as well as over 1,000 absentee ballots.
Caroline Murphy was one of the turned-away voters.
Murphy stood in line twice at City Hall to attempt to same day vote, and both times she was unsuccessful. The first time she came a little after 2 p.m., but had to get out of line to keep another appointment.
She is registered to vote, but was found to be on an inactive voter list and was told on Monday that she would have to come to City Hall to get registered and cast her vote.
When she came back at 7:30 p.m., Murphy found hundreds of people in line trying to register and vote.
Well after 8 p.m. she was finally told that she would not be allowed to vote.
“I’m feeling disappointed for myself, but also disappointed for all of the other people who were turned away,” Murphy said. “What does this say about our democracy? We should be erring on the side of franchising people and this is probably just a small symptom of what is happening in other places.”
Murphy said the process would have worked better if people could register and vote at any polling place rather designating one central location where all same day registration voters had to appear.
An earlier version of this story follows:
Hundreds Wait Hours Same-Day Registration
(Updated) A Yale undergraduate singing group swung into action at City Hall Tuesday night to serenade a line of waiting voters that had reached 200 people and stretched to the mayor’s office—a promising sign for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The best news for Malloy in New Haven on Election Day came not out on the streets, but on the second floor of City Hall, where people waited hours for the chance to register to vote and cast a ballot.
The crowd was taking advantage of relatively new same-day registration and voting law. Five hundred people had passed through the process and cast same-day votes at City Hall by 6:30 p.m. Another 200 waited their turns, cramming in the room set aside for the process, waiting to be processed ...
... and then inside the door down the second-floor City Hall hallway to the mayor’s office.
The New Haven same-day count had more than tripled the turnout for the entire Election Day in 2013, the first time Connecticut’s election-day registration law took effect.
“I’m just praying there won’t be a recount,” quipped moderator Richard Dinardo.
As he spoke, city IT staffer Chet Sowicki laid down electrical tape to prepare two more work stations for staffers to help the overburdened eight staffers already verifying each voter’s local residence, confirming the voter hadn’t cast a ballot elsewhere, entering the voter into a public database, then handing the voter a ballot. The extra staff cut waiting times from two hours to between an hour to an hour and a half.
Waiting voters largely appeared to take the wait in stride. A Yale undergraduate a capella group, Proof of the Pudding, arrived to help by serenading the line. (Click on the video at the top of the story for a sample.) Based on a random set of conversations, their perseverance was good news for Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who’s looking for a big victory in New Haven to put him over the top in the neck-and-neck rematch Tuesday with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley. “We need the votes,” for Malloy, said Wilbur Cross High School senior Kevaughna Sullivan. Sullivan hadn’t registered to vote. She got to hear First Lady Michelle Obama address the senior class in the Cross auditorium last Thursday. Then on Tuesday her grandmother, Millie Raper (at her right in the photo), picked her up and took her to City Hall to register and vote, after Raper herself had cast her ballot.
BMW salesman Basel Saad (at left in photo) showed up at the urging of Martha Royston, an attorney. Neither had registered before Tuesday—Saad because he hadn’t gotten around to changing his registration since moving to New Haven from Waterford 16 years ago, Royston since moving back here from Massachusetts in June. They both said they planned to vote for Malloy. “I don’t mind waiting in line. It’s worth it,” said Royston, who called voting a civic duty. “I’m a Malloy fan. He’s a fellow BC Law grad. He spoke at my graduation. He has an inspiring story” of having overcome dyslexia to succeed in law and politics.
Third-grade school teacher Amber Moye was at the back of the line around 6:30 p.m. Moye, who moved to New Haven from Washington D.C., came straight from work and was surprised at how deep the line was and how long it might take her to vote.
But she said she’s willing to tough it out because she wanted to cast her vote for Gov. Dannel Malloy “because being a registered Democrat, my vote makes a difference.”
Beth Rosen cast her vote at Edgewood School at 9 a.m., but she was back in line with Tuesday evening because her son’s girlfriend Caroline Griffin needed to register and vote. Griffin had moved from Niskayuna, N.Y., and was taking advantage of same day registration and voting
Rosen said she was concerned that people might get discouraged because of the long wait.
But people were keeping themselves entertained by talking to friends, playing with their phones and reading books.
“This is an obstruction of democracy,” Rosen said.
Republican Foley did pick up at least two same-day-registration votes in New Haven: From Keyla and Roberto Rivera. They moved to New Haven from West Haven two years ago, but hadn’t changed their registrations yet, said Roberto, pastor of Iglesia Pentecostal Jehova Rohi on Kimberly Avenue. “We own a house,” he said. “We want change.” The wait was wearing on Keyla: She’s five months pregnant.
Malloy has credited his 18,613-vote landslide victory margin in New Haven with getting him over the top in the 2010 election, in which he beat Foley by a mere 6,404 votes statewide. Malloy and local Democrats are aiming to up that margin to 20,000 this year.
Malloy didn’t appear to be on track to significantly up his absentee-ballot vote: 1,364 New Haveners voted absentee in the 2010 gubernatorial election. As of mid-Tuesday, the city had received 1,022 filled-out absentee ballots, according to Deputy City Clerk. A total of 1,440 voters had applied for absentee ballots, and more were expected to arrive by day’s end
Outside of the City Hall Election Day-registration turnout, the pulling operation appeared to be going at about the same high rate as in 2010 by mid-day Tuesday, but not necessarily higher, according to reports from the field. People did wait in lines on the East Shore and in Westville and East Rock part of the day; in some places the numbers were running slightly higher than in 2010, in others, slightly lower.
Ward 25 in Westville, one of the spots where initial turnout appeared slightly higher, saw about 125 people per hour through the morning, according to moderator Nancy Ahern. “They’re coming out to vote, bless their hearts,” she said.
In addition to casting ballots for Connecticut’s next governor and secretary of state, Ward 25 voters faced a different set of choices at the Edgewodo School polling place: Whether to buy whole-wheat honey-sweetened banana muffins, chicken vegetable soup ...
... or vegan black-bean soup, among other homemade treats. As usual, the Edgewood Parent Team (including Holly Jermyn, Carol Oladele, and Danielle Granoff, in top photo) and student volunteers (including, pictured above, alum Kira Turlington, now a Coop High ninth-grader; and seventh-grader Riley Wilcox) was out in force at the bake sale to raise money to boost the school’s technology purchase.
Allan Appel contributed reporting.