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Same Day Registration Leads to Long Lines, Voters Turned Away

News 8 Investigators

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A voter leaves New Haven City Hall by ripping his voter registration card in half.

“We cannot allow anyone not in the system to register here,” said a New Haven election official. After the polls close at 8:00 p.m., Connecticut voters must be registered in order to vote. Several dozen New Haven voters did not register due to long lines. They made their case loudly to election officials to have their registrations processed or that they had already registered and the city’s rolls were mistaken.

“I’m in the system. I’m supposed to be able to vote,” said one unidentified voter.

A New Haven voter rips up his registration card after being turned away.

“It’s ridiculous how Connecticut want to stop votes. This is ridiculous,” said another.

The November 8. 2016 election brought an unprecedented 30,000 same day voter registrants, a process that requires city officials to very name and address.

“The turnout for registration surprised me a little bit. It was larger than I thought,” said Secretary of State Denise Merrill to reporters Wednesday. “The biggest problem we always have is people get up to the desk and they aren’t on the list. And they insist they should be – and who knows what the error is – maybe they moved across town and didn’t realize they were supposed to change – it’s a new polling place… But again, we’ve had election day registration now so we can fix some of those problems. Not right at the polling place – but we can send people to town hall and get them registered. So things like that have made things much smoother than in the past.”

New Haven processed nearly 1,000 same day registrants during the election day, even requiring staff from around city hall to help move the line that snaked its way around the second floor of City Hall.

One of the voters to be turned away was Catherine Ayers and her 10 year old son Harrison. Ayers said she was dyslexic and had never voted before. She had spent the day trying to cast a ballot only to be denied. The two collapsed and wept outside the registration office.

“I worked so hard,” said Ayers. “I wanted to show proof that I could do it.”

Merrill said that was not the states only failure. Many cities and towns failed to meet the required the midnight deadline to turn in election results. Many towns such as Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury did not have election results posted to the Secretary of State’s website by Wednesday afternoon.

“They were instructed to file the results by midnight. Some of them did not. And this is the first year we are using this election management system where everything is uploaded instantly and we have some work to do on it. It’s perhaps unfair to do it in a year where so many people came to vote and I’m sure that’s the problem,” said Merrill.

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