Decision 2020

A Day at the Polls: Voting Advocates, Officials Reflect on Election Day

Local advocates and officials say that your experience voting on Election Day can't be forgotten for another four years.

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Voting in-person went quite smoothly around the state with a historic number of people showing up to the polls.

But there were some bumps in the road.

Volunteers with Common Cause’s “Election Protection” program patrolled the polls.

They wanted to make sure all voices were heard in Connecticut no matter who you were voting for on Election Day.

“Roving poll monitors” like Cindy Dubuque-Gallo of Hartford were tasked by the nonpartisan group to check in on the voting experience at polling locations around the state.

“People were determined to vote. Like across the city people were absolutely determined to vote,” said Dubuque-Gallo.

 “We had challenges in couple of other cities and towns, but I feel really positive about how it went,” said Common Cause of Connecticut’s Executive Director Cheri Quickmire.

Quickmire said while they found there were some lines at some polling places around the state, like in New Haven for example, she said voters who arrived by poll closures had no problem casting their ballot.

Dubuque-Gallo did run into an issue at one polling location in Hartford.

“As I’m approaching Grace Lutheran, I’m seeing people leaving the polls and I’m asking them how was your experience here. And the guy said, ‘my wife is still in line. I can’t wait any longer. I’m leaving the poll.’”

She checked in on other locations across the city around the same timeframe, but didn’t see the same backup.

“It doesn’t make sense. It was dead elsewhere across the city by the way.”

She said she reported the issue to the State Election Enforcement Commission.

NBC Connecticut spoke to people who said they waited in line there for more than two hours.

While the voting process was smooth in most areas on Tuesday, one precinct in Hartford experienced long lines throughout the day.

We were there when wait times dropped dramatically after help arrived at the polling location

“At one point we had people from the corner to the Farmington Avenue, as far as the eye can see when I looked down there,” said Grace Lutheran Church poll moderator Benita Toussaint. “I was floored.”

Election Day can be exhausting for the people working the polls.

“When you feel as though something failed and you don’t have the power to change things around, as to what happened in the moment yesterday,” she told NBC Connecticut.

One of the registrars herself came to help move the line along later in the afternoon,

“We apologize over the long lines, but there were long lines nationwide and we did what we could,” said Hartford’s Democratic Registrar Giselle Feliciano.

Her Republican counterpart by her side added, “to the best of out ability.”

This was the few issues NBC Connecticut heard about at Hartford’s 24 polling locations.

While the moderator said she could have used more staff, the city’s registrars sid they were dealing with COVID-19 constraints and they were staffed to their best ability.

Plus, they thought more people would be voting absentee.

In addition, “Many folks were in the wrong polling area, so they were waiting for many hours, not understanding that the polling the area was not the correct area.”

Tousaint said while she in no way wants to point fingers, she just hopes there’s some systemic improvement either on the city or state level to better the experience for all community members.

Both she and both Hartford registrars said Election Day shouldn’t be forgotten.

They’re all in favor of switching to electronic voting and they hope to see this turnout even on non-presidential race years.

In the meantime, Toussaint said she’s not sure she’ll work as a moderator again.

“Well it was a heartbreaking experience for me," she said of the hours-long waits some voters experienced.

The Grace Lutheran Church is a small polling location.

Registrars said they will bring up this specific location up for change to the delegation in the future.

As Common Cause continues to debrief what they saw on this Election Day, they said they’ll be pushing for some state voting change like allowing early voting for example.

“I understand that democracy is a lot of work, but it shouldn’t necessarily take your entire day to cast your vote,” said Quickmire.

As we continue to wait for some election results, voting day may have been another task that’s now crossed off your calendar.

But your voting experience can impact your future participation.

Voting advocates and local officials are pressing that we need to keep up this kind of turnout, no matter the year.

And if you were frustrated with your experience waiting in a line, perhaps you can help make future change.

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