Tension mounts as Fairfield can’t decide where to hold same day voter registration

FAIRFIELD — Tension between the Registrars of Voters has surfaced again, this time over where to hold election day registration and voting.

The registrars, Republican Roger Autuori and Democrat Matt Waggner, have until Monday, Oct. 24 to agree on a location or EDR will be held in the default location, town hall, according to the Secretary of the State’s office.

The registrars, who work in separate offices after each complained to the police about the other, had apparently agreed to hold EDR at Fairfield University, the location proposed by Waggner. In exchange, Autuori wanted to have absentee ballots counted at one central location, rather than at each polling place.

On Sept. 22, 2015, Autuori, in an email to Waggner, wrote, “I would agree to have EDR at the university next year, but I would also want (absentee ballots) to be centrally counted for next year too.” Waggner responded, “It’s a deal.”

Now, however, that deal is off, and Waggner said he has “heard no rationale” from Autuori as to why.

The state has had same day registration and voting since 2013. That year, EDR was done in Old Town Hall, and moved to Independence Hall in 2014 and 2015.

Per a memo from Waggner to Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer, after Autuori agreed to the university as the EDR location, he began planning with campus officials on different issue, including setting aside parking and providing appropriate furniture and signs.

“The political parties, candidates, Secretary of the State’s office, and League of Women Voters know of the agreed upon location,” Waggner wrote.

On Wednesday, Autuori and Waggner received an email from Peggy Reeves, director of elections for the state. Reeves said they are preparing to publish the location and phone number of all EDR locations. Both registrars must agree to the EDR location.

Reeves said there are still outstanding network issues with the Fairfield University location.

“Considering the demands on our IT department this year we will not be able to accommodate the creation of such a connection in the last days leading up to the election,” Reeves wrote. “There are simply too many factors in play. If you cannot resolve the disagreement or other obstacles then by default the location will be town hall, where you already have access to the central voter registration system.”

Reeves told the two “we are issuing this written instruction and direction to both registrars of voters to resolve this issue and provide a suitable location for the Election Day Registration site no later than Monday, Oct. 24, 2016.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he has stayed out of the disagreement, except for an email telling the two that the Secretary of the State’s office was very direct and they need to come to an agreement by Monday.

For his part, Waggner said via email that “Absent an adverse determination from the pending state cybersecurity review, I would not agree to any change to our agreement to hold EDR at the university. Not only would doing so hurt voters and inflict chaos on our election day operations, establishing as precedent that written agreements have no effect would serve to render this department completely impossible to manage in the future.”

The registrars are on the ballot in November, however, Autuori is not seeking re-election.

In October, 2013, Waggner had Autuori arrested, after he alleged Autuori pushed and slapped him during a disagreement over the handling of electronic scanners. Autuori was charged with breach of peace and was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation. The two were then given separate offices in Old Town Hall — Waggner on the first floor and Autuori on the second floor.

In 2014, Autuori called police to report that Waggner kept removing a sign outside the first-floor office indicating Autuori’s office on the second floor. Waggner called the Public Works Department because he said Autuori was gluing the sign to the wall.

greilly@ctpost.com; @GreillyPost