During the final hours of Election Day, frustration filled New Haven’s City Hall as last-minute voters waited in long lines, including for Election Day registration.
“I would like to vote,” Sam Howard from New Haven said. “I think I have the right to vote and I don’t understand why this process is stretched on for so long.”
In each city and town, the state only allows for one designated polling location for same-day voter registration. That is part of the reason the lines were so long in New Haven, which is one of the state’s largest cities and it has a big college student population.
Defeated Republican candidate for governor Bob Stefanowski decided not to move forward with the legal challenge concerning same-day registration voters rushed through to meet the state’s 8 p.m. deadline in New Haven and in Mansfield near UConn.
“Given where the results came out plus 10,000 it’s not enough to really influence anything, so we’ll let that go,” Stefanowski told reporters Wednesday morning. “Ned’s won this thing fair and square.”
Yale University student Alikiah Barclay said he had hoped to vote in his home state of Florida.
“But they had a change in policy where absentee ballots now required an affidavit that I would have to send them for them to send me their ballot,” he explained, “and then I would need to get them back my ballot by today.”
After encountering a long line in the morning for Election Day Registration, Barclay returned in the late afternoon to find even longer lines.
“Aldermen telling folks look it’s a four hour line, look if you don’t make it all the way you might wait in vain,” he said. “Essentially, there was a sign up that said as much.”
“We all could have done better,” New Haven election monitor Kevin Arnold said.
But Arnold told NBC Connecticut even if there were more properly trained staff on hand, long lines may have been inevitable late in the day.
“I don’t think no matter how many people we had, we had enough to handle the crowds that came in at one time,” Arnold said.
Stefanowski said Governor-Elect Ned Lamont and his team should look at ways to improve Election Day registration.
“I think it should be more organized,” he said. “I don’t think it’s helpful that we get lines out the door at 7:59. Somehow we need to facilitate it so people aren’t scrambling to get their vote in. Everybody who wants to vote should get the chance to vote.”
Arnold suggested one fix to make sure this does not happen again in November 2020.
“Let’s make sure other people are registered and get to vote and not wait to the last minute so these things don’t happen,” he said.
The ACLU of Connecticut would like to hear from eligible voters who intended to vote in New Haven, but were unable to do so.
“New Haven's repeated failure to staff its polling places with enough workers to ensure people's rights to vote is practically inviting a lawsuit. The long lines and discouraged voters we saw (Tuesday) were a completely avoidable situation,” ACLU of CT legal director Dan Barrett said.
Secretary of the State Denise Merill said Wednesday morning that some of the “wet ballots” from people coming into polls from the rain were in New Haven and that contributed to delays in counting the votes.