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Local Registrars Support Training Mandate In New Bill



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Newtown’s registrars of voters both said they liked stipulations in a new bill proposed by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill that provide for training and continued professional development to assure state communities and voters experience the best equipped elections officials and poll workers each time the exercise their opportunities to vote.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill joined the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) June 1 praising the Connecticut State Senate for unanimously passing Senate Bill No. 1051 “An Act Strengthening Connecticut Elections.”

With a vote of 36-0, State Senators of both political parties approved the bill to enhance accountability and professionalism among Connecticut’s registrars of voters, who are charged with administering elections in Connecticut. Secretary Merrill and ROVAC were urging House lawmakers to pass SB 1051 and send it to the desk of Governor Dannel P. Malloy.

The bill mandates training and certification for locally elected registrars, requires elections officials to follow the instructions of the secretary of the state, and provides for a removal process in the event of malfeasance or extreme neglect of duty. The bill also allows the secretary of the state to temporarily relieve a registrar of voters from duty who has failed to attain required certification or is the subject of an investigation of any matter related to his or her duties.

If the bill is enacted, registrars of voters will be required to pass certification courses and undergo yearly professional development and training, with failure to do so grounds for removal from office.

Newtown’s Republican Registrar Joanne Albanesi said that making education of registrars mandatory “is a very good thing,” and would help ensure that “registrars can now be more accountable for their actions.”

Democratic Registrar of Voters LeReine Frampton, who previously noted that promised professional development was discontinued at the state level, said she is “very excited that the certification program will be restructured and resurrected.”

“I was fortunate enough to work in the registrar’s office for several years before becoming registrar,” Ms Frampton told The Newtown Bee. “I was able to learn a great deal during that time as well as attend quite a few of the certification classes from the old program. Not all registrars [had] that advantage. This bill appears to respect the professionalism of the position.”

‘Victory For Democracy’

Secretary Merrill, who serves as Connecticut’s chief elections official, said the Senate’s unanimous passage of this landmark bill is a major victory for democracy and for Connecticut voters.

“I am grateful for the partnership with the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut and for the leadership of Senator Steve Cassano for helping to bring this bill forward for a vote,” she said in a release. “I urge the House to pass this bill as quickly as possible — it is a very strong, bipartisan proposal that will greatly improve elections for Connecticut voters. If this bill becomes law we will have more professionalism and accountability in how we run elections in Connecticut.”

Secretary Merrill said the law would require that registrars be certified and complete yearly training, while imposing “real consequences for incompetence or neglect in carrying out their duties.”

“This bill also paves the way for some long-needed modernization and technological improvements to the voting process in Connecticut, something we have sought for years,” Secretary Merrill added.

Melissa Russell, president of ROVAC, said the senate’s passage of SB 1051 gives registrars the technological tools and educational opportunities that will help strengthen and modernize elections, “while maintaining a bipartisan structure in our offices.”

“The Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut looks forward to working with the secretary of the state in implementing the various changes and advancements that this bill puts forward,” Ms Russell said.

In addition to introducing new accountability and professionalization standards for registrars of voters, SB 1051 also quickens election results reporting by separating results from other statistics that often take longer to gather and report.

Details Of Bill

The bill unifies voter registration deadlines to one week prior to Election Day, and permits local election officials to use the online voter registration system to enroll residents who are participating in Election Day Registration (EDR), which should help reduce EDR waiting times on Election Day.

The mandated training and certification for registrars of voters would be designed and implemented by the secretary of the state’s office. Under this bill, for a registrar to be removed from office, the secretary would refer a potential removal matter to the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), which would investigate and determine whether the case should be referred to the attorney general.

After review, if it is determined removal is warranted, the attorney general may bring an action in Superior Court seeking removal. A full hearing before a Superior Court judge would follow. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives. The regular session of the General Assembly adjourns under constitutional mandate on June 3, 2015.

Newtown’s Democratic registrar said the new legislation might bring other collateral benefits at the local level.

“I think it is very difficult for anyone elected to any position or even those appointed to a board in town — there can be quite a learning curve involved,” Ms Frampton said. “Yet we ask people to step forward and most positions have little to no training. I would like to see a training process for those elected or appointed on the local level.”

Ms Frampton believes this might increase the number of candidates coming forward.

“Many people that we think would be great are afraid to step forward,” she added. “Knowing training is available might give candidates enough confidence to stick that toe into the pool.”

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill joined the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) June 1 praising the Connecticut State Senate for unanimously passing Senate Bill No. 1051 “An Act Strengthening Connecticut Elections.” 
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