Friday, January 25, 2008

Hearings slated on new voting machines

By Gregory B. Hladky
Capitol Bureau Chief
— State lawmakers plan to conduct public hearings next month in East Haven and four other locations around the state to listen to complaints about Connecticut’s new optical scan voting machines.
Members of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee said the hearings stem from reports of problems involving recounts, voter privacy and ballot shortages.
The most glaring instance is a tight mayoral election in East Haven that involved two recounts before Democrat April Capone Almon was declared the winner by a 25-vote margin. The first recount produced a bizarre finding that more votes had been recorded than the number of people listed as having voted.
The committee’s co-chairwoman, state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said, "There is no particular town, no particular issue that is a focus" of the hearings. She said, "By all accounts, the last election went very smoothly" in nearly all communities.
"We want to make (voting) as efficient and effective as possible," Slossberg said.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, whose office is responsible for overseeing the election process, said she welcomes the legislative committee’s decision to have public hearings on the new machines.
"Over the past year, I have conducted more than 200 town hall or community meetings with voters from across the state regarding our new machines," Bysiewicz said. "In addition, my office has held more than 20 meetings with local election officials, poll workers and voting advocates."
The 2007 election was the first since Connecticut replaced all its old mechanical voting machines with new optical scan technology. A random audit of 20 percent of new optical scan machines used in the election found no significant problems with the system, Bysiewicz said.
The switch to optical scan technology was made in part to ensure that, in the event a recount is required, there would be a "paper trail" of every vote cast.
State Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, the committee’s House chairman, said one hearing would be conducted in each of Connecticut’s five congressional districts.

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