1 or 3 Embattled Hartford Registrars Resigns

One of Hartford's three registrars has submitted her resignation after a myriad of problems during last fall's general election, according to a statement from the Hartford City Council.

"Urania Petit has withdrawn her lawsuit and submitted her resignation as part of a negotiated settlement with the City, subject to City Council approval," Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Petit said in a statement Tuesday evening that her resignation will take effect May 22. She called the city's efforts to remove her and the other two registrars "a politically motivated attack" and said "the decision is vindicating."

"However, the experience of being harassed and hounded by the City Council was personally hurtful and demoralizing, and also disrespectful to the voters of Hartford," she said. "The problems faced by Hartford voters because of errors by Hartford Registrars in the last election have caused me great pain, but as I have always known, they did not come from my office."

Petit's resignation came hours before a Superior Court judge ruled that the city council cannot remove the three registrars from office.

In issuing her ruling, the judge pointed out that the General Assembly once gave the Hartford City Council authority to remove elected officials, but that the city gave up that right during charter revisions in 2002.

"We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that all residents of Hartford are able to vote and that those votes are counted," Wooden said. "We disagree with the judge's decision and are evaluating our options."

Problems plagued at least 10 city precincts in November, prompting extended voting hours at two polling places.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, along with Wooden submitted two resolutions to the city council, one of which proposed a “committee of inquiry” to investigate the polling problems.

The investigation revealed serious issues with reported voting irregularities across the city, including more votes cast in Hartford for the governor’s race than voters reported.

After receiving the report, the city council filed a second resolution seeking to remove the trio – Democrat Olga Vazquez, Republican Sheila Hall and Urania Petit, of the Working Families Party.

"We were confident that we were right on the law, and we were very confident that we would prevail, because the law was on our side," said Corey Brinson, attorney for Sheila Hall.

Vazquez filed a complaint against Hartford and the Court of Common Council last month, arguing that it's illegal for the city to remove elected officials.

"Today, the court ruled that when people walk into a voting booth, their vote counts and it can't be arbitrarily removed by the power of a city council," said attorney Richard Padykula, who is representing Vazquez.

The city of Hartford has the option to appeal the judge's ruling but it's not clear if city leaders plan to do so.

"The decision is disappointing but I will continue to work with City Council to explore all options that protect Hartford's voters," Segarra said in a statement.

In Connecticut municipalities, registrars of voters are nominated on behalf of each political party. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill believes this is part of the reason there have been problems in several recent elections.

Last month, Merrill went to the State Capitol to ask legislators to promote a bill calling for professionalizing all 169 registrars’ offices across the state.

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