Voter info caught in tangle as registrars continue to wrangle
Updated 3:03 pm, Friday, October 2, 2015
Frustration with the registrars of voters’ rocky relations is causing concern among town officials trying to make sure residents know where they vote in November, following recent changes to district lines and polling places.
Representative Town Meeting Moderator Pam Iacono, R-4, raised the issue at Monday’s meeting of the legislative body and First Selectman Michael Tetreau said trying to get a communication plan about the issue that both registrars agree to has “proved a little more complicated.”
Autuori and Waggner no longer work in the same office at Old Town Hall becaue of a long-term inability to get along. While preparing voting machines for the 2013 election, Waggner called police after he alleged Autuori assaulted him. The following March, Autuori called police because Waggner was removing signs indicating his office had been moved to the second floor of Old Town Hall.
In the latest instance of disagreement, Democrat Registrar Matthew Waggner said in an email that he and his Republican counterpart, Roger Autuori have “agreed to do a mailer, a joint letter to the editor and notifications via FairTV, and we are assisting other departments and the League of Women Voters with their outreach in a variety of other media.”
Autuori, meanwhile, responded with a copy of a July 10 email from Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Heather Dean to Tetreau, which Tetreau then sent to both registrars, asking what the plan is to inform voters of the changes. That same day, Autuori responded to Tetreau that there should be a meeting with all involved, an idea that Tetreau replied sounded good.
“This is how it started but Tetreau never scheduled a meeting, but instead continued with emailing, leading to interpretations and blunders,” Autuori said.
WHERE DO I VOTE?
Residents can look up their polling locations via links to the following websites:
Waggner said there was a meeting Sept. 15 between himself, Autuori, Registrar of Voters staffer Holly Lanese and the League of Women Voters, which produced the plan for a mailer, a jointly signed letter to newspaper editors and the use of informational slides on cable-access FairTV.
RTM member Bryan Cafferelli, who also works for GOP first selectman candidate Chris Tymniak’s campaign, also emailed Waggner last week, seeking the “universe” being used for the mailing, going so far as to file an FOI request. The “universe” delineates who would be sent a mailer, for example, every registered voter or every household with a registered voter.
Cafferelli, in an email to Lanese, charges Waggner took over the process, cutting out Autuori.
Waggner said only one mailing could be done because of a lack of funding. “Such mailings would be contingent of the availability of funds, as the registrars’ department budget was cut to prohibit us from promoting voter participation using the mail or through paid advertising beginning with the FY 2014 budget,” he wrote in an email to Iacono.
The new voting district boundaries were not adopted by the RTM until February of this year. According to the budget narrative for the 2014-15 budget, the registrar budget “does not reflect funding for redistricting. We are assuming funds will be set aside in the contingency for this purpose.”
For the current budget, the department requested, and received, $6,995 for printing and $5,035 for postage. The narrative states, “Notifying voters about their correct state and local polling locations will be done by this office using funds within the current budget.”
Meanwhile, Tetreau said every effort is being made to get the word out about the new voting districts, and said additional funding could be provided if the registrars “tell me how much. My request was ‘give me a plan you both agree on and how much it costs.’ ”
The first selectman said it is not a partisan issue. “This is about the right to vote, and there are few things more important than that right,” he said.
Tetreau said there are online links on both the town website and the Republican Town Committee website that allow residents to look up their district and polling location. Some candidates’ literature and campaign signs also include voting district information, Tetreau said.
Tetreau said the town is also looking at the possibility of using the CodeRed messaging system to inform residents of the changes.
“We’re looking for a comprehensive communication plan from the registrars,” Tetreau said. “They don’t have one, so the town, and both parties and the League of Women Voters will fill the gaps and do what we can.”