(TNS) — Enthusiastic Connecticut voters didn't mind the sporadic long lines, while the same day registration feature went off without a hitch on presidential Election Day 2020 in the city.
Vincent Mauro, chairman of the New Haven's Democratic Party, predicted the vote would be split between absentee ballots and the machine tallies with the party's incumbents winning again in the dominant Blue city, including the top of the ticket, Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.
Biden won Connecticut's seven electoral votes, defeating President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported as polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a result that was an assumed conclusion.
Across the city, residents were at the polls as the doors opened at 6 a.m. with lines of 100 people or more not uncommon. "I like doing my civic duty. See it. Feel it. Be it," Carol Barfield said as she waited outside the firehouse on Woodward Avenue in the chilly morning air in the 17th Ward.
That poll, in the Annex on the East Shore, appears to have had the longest lines at the end of the night when 75 people who were assembled by the 8 p.m. closing were allowed to vote delaying a count by a half hour. The vote tallies there showed incumbent state Representative Al Paolillo winning that ward.
The Registrar of Voters office this year hired some 600 workers at the polls, brought in 20 computers programmed to connect to the Secretary of the State's office, rather than two, and conducted more training hoping it would break the cycle of problems that had unfolded in 2014 and 2016, but mainly 2018 for Election Day Registration at City Hall.
The office was hoping Yale University students, as was planned this summer, got absentee ballots for their home districts across the country rather than participating in Election Day Registration at City Hall, a process that had so often overwhelmed election workers in the past.
Assistant Republican Registrar of Voters Jeff Weiss said there was a good flow of voters all day. He said it was a mix of students and others who had decided that this election was too important to sit out.
In the city, families were among those filling out the socially distanced lines across the wards.
Aaron Jafferis held baby Rheo June Seay Jefferis, 5 months, who was in need of a nap, as they moved ahead with mom, Sarah Tracy-Wanck.
Like many others, the couple just wanted the experience of voting in-person, rather than using an absentee ballot, although the ABs were also in heavy use with 16,500 ballots sent out to voters and between 14,000 and $15,000 expected to have made it back to the City Clerk's office in time to count.
The tallying of absentee ballots has already begun with a total possible tommorow.
"I was feeling anxious about the election in general and wanting to make sure my vote was counted," Tracy-Wanck said.
The only snafu in the election involved a list of polling places on the Registrar of Voters site that failed to enumerate all of the sites where a ward had more than one.
This was causing some confusion for Yale University students in the 7th Ward downtown, an issue that has happened in previous elections.
Molly Shapiro of the Yale College Democrats said students tried for days to reconcile the list on the local registrar's site with one on the Secretary of the State's website.
"It has been frustrating," Shapiro said, of the lack of correct information.
Yale freshman Ramsay Goyal said that the information Yale shared with students in the days right before the election also caused confusion in trying to determine "my correct polling place."
Mauro had predicted earlier that the turnout would be heavy in the state's highest Democratic voting city.
"Four years ago, New Haven voted about 40,000 people. We're probably on track for the same amount, even in the coronavirus pandemic," he said earlier. Mauro said it looks like the machine totals will come in at least between 15,000 to 17,000 votes with between 14,000 and 15,000 absentee ballots.
Morgan Day Frank, who voted at East Rock School, said "It's a very important election, historic I would say. We're worried about the rise of authoritarianism, the Republicans being the party of authoritarianism."
Voter Anastasia Eccles, who was with Frank, said she feels like Connecticut voters often don't have their votes counted meaningfully, but adding to Biden's popular vote total was important to her to send a message and make it clearer.
She said she also voted for Sergio Rodriguez on the Working Families Party line for registrar. "I'm excited to see where his candidacy goes."
Ralph Pickup, who voted at Nathan Hale School, said he always votes, but not always a straight ticket Democratic. This election he did. "We need to restore some sanity, we need to vote."
He said his concerns aren't about how his state representatives are doing. "The President is the one we need to change."
On the west side of the city there was a party going on thanks to the organizing of Khalilah Brown Dean, political science professor at Quinnipiac University, who with sponsors from the Greater New Haven Arts Council brought music, singing, DJs and poetry to reward voters with some entertainment.
State Rep. Robyn Porter, D- New Haven, who was at Lincoln Bassett School in Ward 20, sung along to a Marvin Gaye favorite with singer Rahsaan Langley, accompanied by DJ Herman Ham.
Porter said black women in 1870 made Election Day an all-day celebration even though they couldn't vote. She said Brown-Dean wanted to mark this election in 2020 the same way.
"What we didn't realize is we were channeling the spirit of our ancestors ... Here we are. Partying at the polls. They did it big," Porter said. "No matter who is there (in the White House) we are going to celebrate this day. So much was lost in order to gain the right to do this. Imagine if they had taught us this history in school, instead of talking all the time about slavery. Teach me something that is going to liberate me."
Like similar reports all around the city, Porter said she was greeted by long lines at Lincoln Bassett and at Celentano School, both part of her state district. "This is exciting," she said as Lincoln Bassett had tallied 856 voters by 12:30 p.m.. "I think America is voting her conscience today and she is saying enough is enough."
Police Chief Otoniel Reyes, who was having lunch in the early afternoon in the East rock area, said there were long lines early almost everywhere and no issues. "Everything looks really good. It is a long day. I anticipate the mad rush will be after work. That will be the next wave."
Dominic Tammaro, the moderate for the EDR, said there were no complaints as everything moved along smoothly. Between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. there were only a handful of people seeking to register and cast a ballot. The totals reached around the same numbers — about 600 — as in earlier elections without the chaos.
On the first floor of the Hall of Records, several tables of workers started mid-morning to open some 8,000 absentee ballots and put them through the tabulators, something that still was not finished as the polls closed.
Thousands more will be counted after 8 p.m. Among the workers were Lauretta Casey, Louise Coppola and Rose DeMatteo, friends from the East Shore.
Many people had opted, not only in New Haven, but across the state to vote by absentee ballot to avoid crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tammaro said maybe opening up this use in the future was a good idea, as it avoided the crush of voters at the polls.
"It gives us a chance to work at a regular pace," Tammaro said. He and a group of workers were planning to put the EDR ballots in the tabulators Tuesday night.
Election Moderator Kevin Arnold said he would sent a report on the totals they had reached by midnight to the Secretary of the State's office with another report at the of the counting.
This year the focus was also on absentee ballots as well as a smooth EDR.
Assistant Town Clerk May Reed said the office had received 13,100 absentee ballots as of Monday after sending out 16,500. She said voters filled up drop boxes as quickly as they could empty them.
City-Town Clerk Michael Smart hoped to come close to closing the gap between those sent out and the ballots received by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The staff, as well as dozens of seasonal helpers, have been working multiple shifts up to 10 p.m. to keep up with the flow, Reed said. She expected more than 90 percent to be returned.
The most work centered on getting the ballots out quickly to the public, which was eager to use them as an alternative to mingling with others in crowded polling places in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the City-Town Clerk's office opted to not use the system set up by the Secretary of the State's office for inputting AB requests and then tallying the ballots sent out, voters could not easily tap into the Central Voter Registration system to check the status of their requests.
The state was concerned that the consumer friendly set-up for voters was compromised by that decision and there was fear some voters would unnecessarily show up at the polls who didn't have to, adding to congestion. That congestion only occurred in the morning, it quickly dissipated.
Smart said using their own software to input requests and then push out ballots was faster, but it amounted to more work, when the information was then transferred to the CVR system.
By late afternoon, the contrast between this smooth election and previous problems was striking.
In 2014, more than 600 residents showed up to take advantage of Election Day Registration, three times what was expected with two-hour waits and 100 voters turned away when the clock ran out.
In 2016, just under 1,000 were registered during the EDR with 50 turned away with criticism of continuing under-staffing to handle what was expected to be large crowds ready to vote in the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton presidential election.
More problems occurred in 2018, on a day that started where voters in the 7th Ward were sent to the wrong polling locations. It later encompassed wet ballots, jammed machines, hundreds of potential voters waiting for hours and an appeal to the courts.
Then 700, mainly Yale University students, filled City Hall that year for same day registration with waits of four hours and, in some cases 6 hours. Again there were only two staffers capable of connecting with secretary's office to register new voters until a group of Yale Law students were deputized.
Complicating everything, ballots had gotten wet when voters came in out of the rain, disabling some tabulators. Supporters of the GOP gubernatorial nominee, Bob Stefanowski, sought an injunction when 64 newly registered voters that night, were allowed to cast ballots after 8 p.m. The suit was not pushed when he conceded the election to Ned Lamont.
The finally tallies were not filed until the following Friday when the total for the absentee ballots were not saved in the computer and had to be recounted.
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