Hamden mix-up sparks call for audit of all towns’ election records

February 14, 2019

In response to a multi-year ballot error in Hamden, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she is filing legislation to audit the election records of all Connecticut towns to ensure voters are casting ballots in the correct district.

“It was certainly a wake-up call,” said Merrill. “It may be a bigger problem than we realized.”

Merrill’s bill, which has not been filed yet, will propose hiring independent auditors to review how every town implemented the state’s redistricting plans from 2011. Her bill would also order the review after each state redistricting — in essence, every 10 years.

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Currently, there is no state oversight confirming that town election records match the voting maps created by the state. Two other ballot mix-ups occurred in Connecticut towns in 2018.

“The redistricting plan is developed by the General Assembly by a committee there, but then after that (the Secretary of the State’s Office gets) a copy of the maps and the maps go to the local level,” said Merrill. “They’re implemented at the local level, but no one ever goes back to make sure they are properly implemented.”

Merrill’s announcement comes days after Hearst Connecticut Media revealed that some Hamden voters were likely issued the wrong ballots in every state election from 2012 to 2018.

Residents of about 25 homes on Paradise Avenue incorrectly voted in the 11th Senate District because of an error in the Hamden Registrar of Voters’ street list, which poll workers use to distribute ballots. These voters should have cast votes in the 17th Senate District.

Merrill said Tuesday she will refer the issue to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, who will investigate. Hamden Mayor Curt Leng said he would start a local inquiry into Hamden election procedures.

Also in the 17th Senate District, a mistake by the Derby Registrar of Voters meant as many as 36 households on Park Avenue and Roosevelt Drive were voting in the wrong races in the 2016, 2014 and 2012 elections. The voters resided in the 105th House District, but cast ballots in the 104th.

The error, discovered in July 2018, also meant that now state Rep. Kara Rochelle, D-Derby, was running in a district she did not live.

In Stratford on Election Day, 75 voters at Bunnell High School were handed ballots intended for voters of the 122nd House District, when they lived in the 120th District. The ballot bungle has prompted hearings at the state Capitol because the 120th District race was won by state Rep. Phil Young, D-Stratford, by only 13 votes.

After a split recommendation by bipartisan Committee on Contested Elections, top House leaders are now deciding whether or not they will call a full House vote on holding a new election in Stratford.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson