When Every Vote Doesn’t Count in Hartford

By , March 6, 2013 7:49 am

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.

Transparency

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.

Patterns

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.

Future

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?”

6 Responses to “When Every Vote Doesn’t Count in Hartford”

  1. Todd Vachon says:

    We had the same problem with our write-in votes for President and U.S. Senate in 2010. After several voters filed complaints and diligently followed through on them some votes for the Socialist Party, USA candidates magically appeared on the SOTS website several months later…

  2. Nyesha McCauley says:

    I could understand not counting all the votes on election night but there should be a short time frame (one or two weeks) to count every vote. Registrars cannot have the attitude that the votes don’t change outcomes so therefore are not necessary. It is their responsibility as administrators to count votes not have opinions. That’s our role

  3. Richard says:

    Kerri thank you for this piece. It is so important to get the word out to folks. Yes, Nyesha every vote is an important vote and no one has the right, not working family party, democrat or republican parties to not count our votes or not train their moderators to count the votes properly.

    In 2010 behind the scene, folks out in reader land will never know what two of the registers put us though and how off the wall with their reasoning and angry they got at us. Why, because we just wanted our votes counted. There were three of us who filed complaints with the SEEC and all three of us felt at this time and we still do that the registrars were let off the hook far to easy. I guess the right to vote and voting is more important to the voter than it is to those who control the gateway.

    In 2010 I was proud to cast my vote for Todd Vachon, Socialist Workers Party Candidate for senate. I expected my vote to be counted and months later it finally was. In 2013 I was proud to cast my vote for Stephen Durham and Christina Lopez Freedom Socialist Party Candidates for President and Vice President. Again I expect my vote to be counted and I should not have to wait months.

    The excuse that after a long day at the polls the moderators are tired does not hold water with me. We all our tired but we all have to do our job, whatever it is. If not out you go. Training moderators must be someone’s job and that someone is not doing their job. Again I ask that the SOTS office step in and do their job and train the HROV to do theirs even if they must shadow them every election. Voting and the counting of the votes is far too important to be left in the hands of incompetent people.

  4. [...] over at Real Hartford has written an excellent piece, When Every Vote Doesn’t Count in Hartford, on write in votes for 3rd party progressive candidates not being count in Hartford. Two members of [...]

  5. Richard says:

    UPDATE:

    Hello update on the HROV and our votes not counted.

    Yesterday David who is running the campaign to get the votes for 3rd party people who ran for president and vice president counted as should be, sent this note along to me. The note was from Urania who is the Working Families Party HROV in Hartford. She also stated that they sent in an amended return. GOOD WORK Kerri with the piece on your blog!

    “I spoke with Urania today. She said the office submitted an amended report. If true, this would up the count to 7 votes for Stein and 1 for Durham, but still ignores the votes we know about in Districts 5, 11, and 16. So we are going through with the complaint–I hope to put it in the mail tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that only 8 legitimate votes were cast out of 56 attempted write-ins for President”.

    So the HROV is finding votes. They must have been looking in those deep dark holes, those crevices, sink holes in the HROV office, and crannies where votes are hidden away until someone makes a squawk. The last line is enough to bring on a full investigation by SEEC. I would love to see my attempt at writing in a candidate. Will tell you all I have been writing in my choice of candidates for what, some 37 years now,( I know how) as I am never pleased by what the two party system has to offer and certainly not please by liberals of convince who run as progressive democrats and give us crumbs from the master’s tablecloth. Those birds are just tools of the ruling class and we all should know it and know it again.

    What makes me so mad is that this is the second time that HROV has done this in only 3 years. I only hope that they do not get off so easy this time.

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