The Mansfield Registrar of Voters plans to streamline the voting process and reduce congestion for 2020’s presidential election, as increasing numbers of student voters puts a strain on Mansfield’s current voting system and staff, Democratic Registrar Caroline Redding said at the Mansfield Town Council meeting Monday.
Mansfield saw the highest number of election-day registration (EDR) voters for 2018’s gubernatorial election, at a record 845, Redding said, on top of a record turnout for a state election. This proved to be an issue election night, as staff scrambled to get a line of 120 people, mostly University of Connecticut students, registered and set before the 8 p.m. registration deadline, despite a staff of 14.
“Up until 5, EDR was going well,” Redding said. “Later in the day, we had voters arrive by the busload.”
Wifi issues from students attempting to register online while in line, paired with other technical problems, led to a mad dash as poll workers handed out paper registrations to try and make the deadline. This led to issues later down the line as Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski filed an injunction for ‘mass registration’ of voters, who may not have been verified for residency. While the paper registrations were approved of, and encouraged by, the Secretary of State’s office, Mansfield needs a better system for EDR, Redding said.
“Mansfield is a very small town with a very large city living in it,” Redding said. “The Secretary of State’s office recommended we hire four [poll] workers. We hired 14, and 14 wasn’t enough.”
Part of the issue is the transient state of students, council member Ben Shaiken said, as they change dorms or residences each year, and need to register with a new address. Redding said many students who intend to return home to vote or send an absentee ballot are unable to do so come Election Day, and instead register with Mansfield through EDR.
Republican Registrar Vera Ward said UConn needs to take more of an active role in pushing for pre-election registration.
“This is a matter of education,” Ward said.
Current proposals include including registration cards with new student packets from the university, having UConn supply proof of address cards to on-campus students seeking to vote, bettering the town’s available technology and infrastructure, reaching out to student organizations to push voters to register beforehand and hiring more staff.
“We’re planning on meeting with the university and asking for their assistance,” Redding said. “The more people who register, the less who come to EDR.”
Redding said this year’s municipal election will serve as a testing ground for streamlining Mansfield’s election process, especially as record numbers are predicted for 2020’s presidential election.
“EDR is always going to be an issue,” Redding said. “It’s going to be a major issue next year.”
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.