Think back to this past Election Day -- you went to the polls, checked in, received a ballot, voted and placed your ballot in the scanner -- bam: you're done. Did your vote count or not? Recounts usually begin when the margin is too close, in Connecticut the magic number is 2,000 votes or less in a state election. In Bridgeport, CT the recount was triggered by chaos, confusion, and a FOIA request as the city ran out of ballots and voting hours extended and horror stories began.
Reverend Mary C. Green of Redeeming Faith Christian Assembly had a weird experience on Election Day,
I had to use a photocopied ballot. There were no instructions on the reverse side. I asked for written instructions and they could not produce them. I did not feel comfortable about squeezing my paper ballot into a full box. When I questioned the volunteer, they said it would be okay and that they were waiting for someone to bring another box. Truthfully, I could not believe I was in Bridgeport, Connecticut the United States of America, 2010. It all seemed so strange and personally, I felt deprived.
This is a distinct reverse of emotion from the Pastor Green I interviewed while attending President Obama's "Get Out The Vote" rally three days prior to Election Day, with almost 10,000 people willing to stand in line hours before the event, filled with hope and praise, feeling like President Obama had brought great pride to the city that can't seem to get a fair shake.
Soon after the election that never seemed to end, the CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewitz had requested a recount of the 12-16 precincts that used photocopied ballots, her request was quickly spurned by the Bridgeport Deputy City Attorney Arthur Laske questioning on what legal authority the Secretary Of State had to request a selective, non-random recount, not to mention: who would fund it?
Bridgeport is Connecticut's largest city with some of the most profound pockets of poverty within miles of some of the most expensive gold coast property of New England. Once home to giant industrial complexes and the infamous huckster P.T. Barnum in the late 1990's, yes, the same guy who once kept the circus elephants within the city when not performing, and promoted the singer Jenny Lind and, of course, Thom Thumb.
Today there are still circus innuendos swirling about this latest voting debacle where confusion reigned as they ran out of the reported 21 thousand ballots, for the city's almost 70 thousand voters. The drama continued well into the evening when the city was granted an extension of voting hours. And then the counting began, over three days amid acrimonious positioning of the Registrars, state and city leaders, both majority parties and cries of voter disenfranchisement. The flags had been tossed, a panel convened to investigate why and where the problems lay, and then a FOI request from The Connecticut Post triggered a recount that is now underway.
No hanging chads:
Calm prevailed as the recount of the 25 precincts began this week at Bridgeport's City Hall Annex, in collaboration at the request of the Connecticut Post, and a volunteer coalition of nonpartisan, non-profit leaders from Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition www.ctvoterscount.org a group that observes election audits, Common Cause www.commoncause.org/Connecticut and the League of Women Voters www.lwvct.org
A credible process for recounting had been established by the group that sprang into action within 10 days after being contacted by CT Post's Editor Tom Baden,
The sense was that there was so much confusion about the numbers, this will bring clarity to what the numbers brought.
Both City Registrars of Voters Republican Joseph Borges & Democrat Santa (Sandi) Ayala have been in the election fire hole: both explained the problems began when she ordered the ballots by precinct and received them from the printer separated by State Senate district, example: 1 District had 6 precincts and two State Senate seats, they were not aware of the problems until they began to test the tabulator machines. Although not an excuse, it added to the mix of issues, increased voter turnout somehow faulting Obama's visit and there is enough blame to go around from the top to the bottom.
Reassuring voter confidence was the overwhelming sentiment made by the participants who have turned out from across the state to help with the conduction of the recount. CTVoterCounts.org & Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition Ex. Director Luther Weeks said:
"We want to assure an accurate count, there is no expectation that the outcome will be different."
It also afforded them the experience of doing a "hands on" recount instead of merely observing a state mandated 10% audit of the ballots after each election. Ct League of Women Voters President Cheryl Dunson, seconded the sentiment that all voters should feel confident that their vote is counted accurately.
www.ctpost.com to check out the live streaming of the recount:
Sitting in groups around tables, moderator bags were unsealed, paperwork matched, ballots stacked and then the tedious process began; each ballot sorted, counted, tallied and rechecked. Amid the muffled sounds you could hear "Democrat, Democrat, Republican, Democrat, Unknown, No Vote As Voter Intended, Democrat" as the caller handed each ballot to the next person while two people recorded the vote. Add one supervisor per table, a ballot table, the moderators, the overseers, on duty police officer, city attorney's office officials, a representative from the registrars' office, outside observers and you start to get a crowd.
Back to the calling out "Unknown vote"? Apparently, the third party independent group, The Working Families Party www.ct-workingfamilies.org that does not field their own candidates, but mirrored the democratic slate of candidates, added yet another layer to the confusion when a voter voted on both the Democrat and Working Family lines on a photocopied ballot. The Secretary of State then credited the third party with the vote. Does that make sense to you?
As another moderator bag was brought in under the security of a police escort, 8 people crowded around as the seal was unbroken and contents sorted and removed. The moderator sheets checked, and at a later time, they will be cross tallied to confirm the numbers are correct, or not.
On Election Day, Karen Jackson arrived at her precinct at 8:30 AM and was told at 10:00 AM they had run out of ballots and was told to come back: but wasn't told when to come back or notified since she didn't have the local cable TV news of the extended hours; she never came back or voted. Or Molly Kessler who arrived at Central High School at 4:45 PM as #25 in line, and by the time she was able to vote at 6:30 PM, she was #7. Where did the other people go? And did they come back? We will never know.