When Every Vote Doesn’t Count in Hartford

In Hartford, the Working Families Party has displaced Republicans as the minority party on City Council. We have three Registrar of Voters because of the strength of this third party.

Knowing this makes Hartford’s recorded results from November’s presidential election seem unlikely. How can a city with a sizable progressive-minded population only have two votes for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, and none at all for Stephen Durham, the Freedom Socialist Party candidate for president?

It can’t.

Real Hartford has found two Hartford residents who say they voted for Stephen Durham, and three who claim to have written in votes for Jill Stein. It’s likely there are others.


David Bedell, Treasurer of the CT Green Party, said that while some towns have election results posted on their websites, Hartford’s data has been less accessible. The most recent results posted by the Hartford Registrar of Voters reflects the outcome of the Democratic State, District and Municipal Primary from August 2012. Bedell said the Green Party has attempted to contact multiple Hartford Registrar of Voters, but as of publication, none have provided the information requested.

The Connecticut Secretary of the State website offers little more in the way of assuring residents that all votes were counted in the November election. The results posted for the presidential election only show votes cast for those candidates belonging to the Republican, Democratic, Independent, and Libertarian parties.

Today marks four months since the polls closed.

To obtain records about how many third party votes were cast town-by-town, members of the CT Green Party had to make an appointment and pay a visit to the  Connecticut Secretary of the State‘s office.

There are no unrealistic hopes that the write-in candidates gained enough support to change the outcome of the presidential election. Bedell says that having this information matters so that the Green Party can “find out” for themselves where they “had the most support.”

But with incomplete or inaccurate data, his and other parties can not carefully assess their own strategies.

Many districts, Bedell said, recorded write-in candidates with a zero or simply left this category blank.

From scouring the paperwork at the SOTS office, what the CT Green Party learned does not entirely match up with their expectations. Over fifty votes for Jill Stein were recorded in New Haven; over thirty in Hamden, Mansfield, and Middletown; and over ten in Bristol, Canton, Colchester, Columbia, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Manchester, New Britain, New London, New Milford, Norwalk, Southbury, Stonington, Tolland, Torrington, Wallingford, West Hartford, Westport, Windham, and Woodbury.

Is it believable that in a city with over 124,000 residents, only two voted for Stein, while a town with a population of half that managed to get more than thirty voters to write-in the same candidate?

Bridgeport, West Haven, and Waterbury all have reported no votes for Stein.


The CT Green Party is preparing to file a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC). In 2010, complaints were also filed with the SEEC for the failure to count and record all write-in votes within Hartford. The result? The Hartford Registrar of Voters was required to file an amended report.

Though the CT Green Party is leading the demands for accountability, Stephen Durham, the Freedom Socialist Party candidate in 2012, has also voiced concerns about what he calls an “effort to exclude” anyone who poses “opposition” in the political arena. What’s happening in Hartford, Durham said, is “part of a pattern” nationwide.

The first openly gay presidential candidate said, “most of [the Freedom Socialist Party] votes weren’t counted across the country.”

In the state of Washington, unless the write-in votes could change the outcome of the election, these votes are not counted, Durham explained to Real Hartford.

For the Freedom Socialist Party, counting every last vote has less to do with campaign analysis and more to do with using the ballot as a way to voice dissent.

“All progressive ideas begin as a minority,” he said. “If you suppress that, you’re endorsing the status quo.”

Even with attempts at voter suppression and an inaccurate record of votes, United States citizens are pushing against the status quo. According to Ballot Access News, Stein became the top vote-getting female presidential candidate during a general election. At the same time, Durham’s running mate  — Christina López — is a Chicana feminist.

And, in an election that was widely believed to be of no contest in this state, some voters who normally would have filled in the bubble for the strongest candidate opposing a Republican, went with voting their conscience instead.

Beyond strategy and dissent, Durham expressed frustration with having to jump through hoops just to get on the ballot or be allowed as a write-in candidate, only to have the votes not counted.

Richard Nelson, one Hartford resident who has complained about the votes not being counted, says that for him it is “not because I believe in this system but voting to me is because of the folks who had to fight hard, get beaten, dog bitten, and killed
just to vote.”

“Folks who had to suffer all sorts of indignities just to participate in a given right such as voting,” Nelson says, “I go to the polls in
honor of these courageous people.”

Why Neglect to Count All Votes?

“Elections night is very busy,” Bedell said. “In some cases the district moderator or head moderator is new to the job and not very well-trained.”

After a long day at the polls, “write-in candidates are not considered[by moderators as] a priority,” Bedell said.

Priority or not, neglecting to record this data is a form of voter disenfranchisement.

As Richard Nelson — a voter taking part in filing a complaint — says, “I expect to have my vote counted. Not denied. I do not expect that I must be made to jump through hoops just to have my vote counted.”

Those wanting to write in the names of candidates have not had an easy time of it in recent years. The now-retired voting booths made the process awkward. Now, voters are provided with a thick, black marker with which to fill in bubbles. The marker does not lend itself to legibly printing more than a few letters, but voters are not informed that they may use their own pens for this purpose.

Bedell told us “anything that’s legible should be counted,” and voters do not even need to write a candidate’s full name. Just the last name of the presidential candidate should be enough.

Realistically, he said, such practices are interpreted differently in each polling place.

One instance of this is described by the Durham/López campaign. They reported that poll workers in Newark, NJ “publicly ridiculed” voters who tried to write candidates’ names on the ballots back in November.

Durham called the election process an “unstandardized method” and insisted that the failure to count votes was an “effort to marginalize” third party candidates.

Next Steps

As the Green Party of Connecticut prepares to file complaints with the SEEC, it is asking that Hartford voters be in contact — regardless of party affiliation — if they question whether or not their votes were counted in the 2012 presidential election. If you fit that description and are willing to give a statement, contact David Bedell.


Will filing a complaint with the SEEC create lasting change?

Hartford resident Richard Nelson says that back in 2010, after submitting the same type of complaint, “it was promised to us by the SOTS office that all Registers of Voters would be trained again about counting the write in votes for registered candidates.”

Nelson says, “if training did take place I ask this question: Why then did the Hartford Registrar of Voters not train the moderators at the polls? We expect that there should be more than just a tap on the fingers of HROV this time around as all three in the City of Hartford are not doing their job in one of the most important functions of a democracy. For what good is the right to vote if no one counts the votes?”