I would like to clear up some confusion about the Registrars of Voters and the New Town Hall building.
A while ago, I was asked to attend one of the many meetings the Town Building Committee had and to speak about what office space/storage are needed. In the past 6 years, how the elections of Connecticut have changed! Gone are the lever machines; now we have moved on to optical scanners, with paper ballots for physical back-up, for each election, primary, and referendum. We no longer need a room the size of the All-Purpose Room at KES, but we do need secure electronic connections to the state.
The Town Office Building Committee mentioned that they were planning a meeting room where we could have elections. That pleased me, as State Statute 9-258 requires registrars or their designees to be in their office during polling hours. They have to be available by phone and to notify all registrars in the state of the phone number. Our office has a secure line to the Connecticut Voter Registration System. Currently, we set up a special phone line at KES for elections, and we put a message on our office phone giving that number at the Polls.
In the New Town Hall plan, the registrar’s office opens directly onto the room that will serve as polling place. The registrars will thus be able to fulfill their electoral functions with full access to their secure line. This will put us in full compliance with the law.
Locating the town polling place in the Town Hall will have many other advantages as well. We will no longer have to have the town highway crew transport “Big Blue”—the cabinet with the voter-card files that must be in the polling place for reference—to and from KES for each election.
Starting in November 2013, we will be dealing with Election Day voter registration, as mandated by the state. We will need to have the Registrars or Assistant Registrars in the office to handle new voters registering at the polls. Having the Registrar’s Office at the polling place will make the process smoother and more efficient.
We are fortunate that our school system now schedules a professional day to coincide with November elections, so that we do not have to contend with school buses several times during the KES school day. But when there is a referendum or a primary and school is in session, we have to deal with limited parking during the AM and PM bus times. Voters who have to park by the modules or in the back parking lot face a long walk and sometimes a delay in coming or going until all the busses have dropped off or picked up the students.
If you stop by the school on a normal school day, you need to be buzzed in at the front door, go to the main office, and sign in and out. But on voting day there could be 4,200 voters wandering around KES when school is in session. We try not to let voters roam the halls, but we cannot watch everyone.
There is also the issue of what would happen if the school had to go into lock down on an election day. How would we continue voting? The current back-up plan is to go outside and vote under the entrance canopy. That is a very iffy solution, given that weather could be bad, electrical service would be jerry-rigged, and space would be tight.
I am not saying that this is the only reason to vote for or against the new Town Hall building, but I hope that voters will understand why the ability to conduct polling at the Town Hall will benefit Killingworth. Of course, the planned meeting room would be useful not only for voting but also for large board and committee meetings, Town Meetings, and meetings of all sorts that community groups might wish to have.
Lauren K. Blaha
Registrar of Voters-Killingworth