Hartford Registrars of Voters Office Fined $9,600 for 2014 Election Debacle

The Office of the Hartford Registrars of Voters has received a fine of nearly $10,000 for the debacle that unfolded at polling locations across the city on election day in November 2014.

A newly released settlement outlines what the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) found were was failures by the Registrars of Voters office leading up to and during the election.

Nearly three years later, representatives from the SEEC found that what occurred on election day in 2014 was, "nothing short of a statewide embarrassment."

Voter lists were not delivered to polling places on time causing 14 locations to open late or open without those lists. In fact, the voting list for the Hartford Seminary polling place, where the governor voted, did not arrive until after 7 a.m. The SEEC also found that moderators at the affected locations were not instructed how to handle the problems.

The investigation was not able to determine exactly how many voters were turned away or how many voters might have decided to stay home when word of the problems spread.

Then-Democratic registrar, Olga Vazquez, defended her office back in 2014.

"Everyone seems to be pointing fingers here," Vazquez said in the evening of November 4, 2014. "Let's look at the whole process. We need to look at this and say collectively how can we improve moving forward."

The SEEC found of Vazques, that her, "wantonly poor decision making reflected either a too-casual approach to her work, or a serious deficiency in her ability to do her job."

The review also found the following:

  • Failure to Timely Deliver Registry Lists to Moderators.
  • Failure to Timely Mark Off Absentee Ballot Voters from the Registry List.
  • Failure to Timely Deliver a Final Registry List to the Town Clerk.
  • Failure to Timely Open a Polling Place.
  • Failure to Properly Check in Voters During the Hours of Voting.
  • Failure to Deliver List of Polling Place Moderators to the Secretary of the State.
  • Failure to Resolve Discrepancies in the Results.

In 2014, there were two other Registrars besides Vazquez. The SEEC found those three registrars had adequate time to prevent problems but did not work together effectively, which resulted in what was a “slowly unfolding calamity”.

The Hartford Registrars of Voters office was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $9,600.

Vazquez, meanwhile, has since been succeeded by someone else. Despite attempts, NBC Connecticut has not yet been able to reach Vazquez for comment.

Read the full State Elections Enforcement Commission here:

Hartford Corporation Counsel Howard Rifkin released this statement to NBC Connecticut:

"These settlements stem from election administration issues in 2014 and 2015, and it was my office’s judgment that the cases should be resolved. Hartford’s current Registrars of Voters have attended State-mandated training and certification as part of Connecticut’s broader efforts to improve election administration."

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