Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bysiewicz Prepares for Fall Election

Last Friday, I met with Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz to discuss the fall election, our transition to optical scan voting machines, and other matters.

Voter Registration Efforts

The Secretary of the State’s office is making a concerted push to get new voters registered. “We had a historic turnout in the primary on August 8th,” Bysiewicz said, “We had 35,000 new voters register with parties. 5,000 people registered as Republicans. The other 30,000 registered as Democrats. Half of those were people who had never registered before. The other half were unaffiliated voters who registered as Democrats, primarily because they wanted to participate in the primary.”

Energized by the large number of voters registering for the primary, the Secretary of the State’s office issued a new challenge to register 35,000 more voters by the fall elections. By Friday, they were only 8,000 new voters short of that goal. Interest in the general election is obviously high. When asked about why she thought interest was so strong this year, Bysiewicz said,“A lot it is the Lamont-Lieberman race. … It is a race that is being watched, of course very closely in CT, but also around the nation and around the world. The lion’s share of the interest is in the senate race. There is a frustration in some of the other candidates who would like to get some media attention." She added, "The other thing that is a contributor are three congressional races that are being watched very closely. [...] It is our sense that there is more interest in those three districts.”

In fact, the number of voters in the three congressional districts seeing close races is slightly higher than it was last year, suggesting that interest in the congressional races is driving at least some of the new registrations. Perhaps worrisome for Republicans, new Democrats outnumber new members of the GOP by a 2-1 margin--which is higher, Bysiewicz indicated, than normal.

“I always encourage people to register with a party,” Bysiewicz said, so that they can participate in primary elections.

New Voting Technology

Twenty five towns will be adopting new optical-scan voting machines for the 2006 election. All other towns in Connecticut will follow suit in 2007. Bysiewicz and her office are working to ensure that people will be able to use the new machines. Initiatives include demonstration sessions and a DVD in every polling place.

Optical scan voting machines work a lot like the little scanners your teachers may have used to grade multiple choice tests. Voters will get a paper ballot they can mark, and the machine will read it. CT Bob, bless him, has video of a machine in action.

The new ballots look very much like the inside of a lever voting machine, but instead of a lever next to each candidate's name, there is an oval to fill in. There is no special pencil, “with a pencil, people could erase,” Bysiewicz pointed out. Instead, each station will have markers. The machines are sensitive--they'll only read what’s in the ovals. Other marks on the ballot, such as a circle, a check mark, etc., will be segregated out and considered separately.

Write-in candidates have a special line at the bottom of the ballot. Voters can write in a candidate's name and fill in the bubble to vote for them. The machine will segregate the write-ins out, after which they will be counted by hand. The candidate must be a registered write-in candidate for the vote to count.

Another innovation available this year in every polling place will be a telephone system for the blind. “For the first time in the history of our state, we’re going to have the telephone system available in every polling place that’s going to give [blind] people access to voting privately and independently,” Bysiewicz said.

To ensure that the machines are working correctly, Bysiewicz said that an audit would be performed in each of the towns switching to optical scan. “We’re doing this audit work with UCONN – because the security issue with this is how do I know if the scanner is counting my votes?" Audits will also be done next year, and Bysiewicz plans to introduce legislation to make the audits mandatory.

She expressed confidence in the ability of the voters to learn the new system. “Everyone can do this. Everybody has filled out a survey, bought a lotto ticket, done a mastery test. They can do this.”

She also seemed confident that voters would not have trouble finding Joe Lieberman's name on the ballot, even though he would be no higher than fifth, and possibly as low as eighth. “Joe is going to have to do a kind of massive public education effort on where to find him," but “[Waterbury Mayor] Mike Jarjura is my poster child for how a person wins without having their name on the ballot. I think voters are smart, and they do whatever they need to do to figure it out.” Jarjura won his race for re-election as a write-in candidate in 2005 (he lost the Democratic primary), an event that made national news.

Campaign Finance Reform

The Secretary of the State's office will be handing some of its current campaign finance functions to Elections Enforcement when the transition to public financing is made next year, but Bysiewicz is very upbeat about the new law. “I wanted it to start for this election,” she said, and recounted that, when she was running for governor, she had been willing to give back all the money she had raised if public finacing were implemented for 2006 (Dan Malloy made a similar pledge--John DeStefano did not).

Bysiewicz thinks that public financing is “...less necessary for local office, because you can go door to door, house to house. For state and federal office, you can’t physically do that.”

When asked whether she thought the number of primaries would increase, she said, “I hope so, because I think that primaries are healthy for the process. We have not seen a huge number of primaries sunce the passage of the direct primary law. […] In the legislative races, we’ve seen up to 33% of the seats uncontested."

And why don't more people run?

“I think it’s a lot of things. I think it’s the media scrutiny. A lot of people think “Oh, I don’t want to put myself out there. There’s a lot of negativity in the media, and there’s a lot more scrutiny than there was before. [...] So I think media scruity is one deterrent, along with the campaign finance system.”

Rell and Campaign Finances

Bysiewicz spoke about the recent accusations of campaign finance violations that John DeStefano has made against Jodi Rell: “I think it is very serious, I think that first of all, the governor has made a pledge not to accept money from state contractors; and she has. From a state law point of view, if you’ve accepted money from state contractors, you must disclose it. And there are sanctions associated with failure to disclose.”

“I would say that Mr. DeStefano has had his own issues. As I recall, in the primary with Mr. Malloy he paid a substantial fine for failing to make those disclosures himself.”

[…] Those of us who are in elected office or […] who hope to should be setting the standard, especially in my role and certainly in the governor’s role.. she’s been stressing ethics and integrity and openness, and so I think it’s incumbent upon campaigns to make very certain."

Bysiewicz said that her own campaign would send back checks not signed, or business checks. “The contributor would say, 'Oh, well other candidates take it,' " but she returns the checks regardless.

“Ethics and integrity are a top priority.”


Anonymous said...

Abbate for State!!!

cgg said...

I think the telephone voting is such a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Did you ask her why she can't say the word DIEBOLD?

Anonymous said...

She has to be kidding.....

It's really great that she sends back checks that are unsigned - isn't that rather obvious???!!


I predict that, of the Dem underticket, she will get the least votes. She isn't the favorite of the party....

Anonymous said...

she left a mark on DeStefano...ouch

Anonymous said...

Nice slam of DeStefano. Very classy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:28 -

I'd take that bet in a heartbeat. Susan has never had a problem getting votes - check the past elections. Maybe she's not well-liked, who knows, but she's never lacked for popularity on election day. And she's been all over the place the past year, probably more. No one can say she doesn't work very, very hard.

Take that for what it's worth, but I wouldn't be surprised if she led the underticket in votes. Guess election day will give us the answer, right?

Anonymous said...

If capaign finance goes to Election Enforcement, what will the Sec of STate do??

That is a pretty dimuniation of responsibilities...

Anonymous said...

Second to Anon 10:28 ... Sec. Bysiewicz is one of the hardest working politicians in the state. She usually has the most refreshing commercials and handles her duties as Sec. of State serious. She has kept political partisanship out of her day to day duties and has always been there for her constituants. She will be a nominee for gov. some day and will be a strong candidate at the top of the ticket. She may not get the most votes this year, but I'll put my money that she wins by the largest percentage.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of her becoming single soon? I'm smitten.

CC said...

This lady is awful. She spends almost no time on the VERY limited duties of her office and completely screwed up the selection of new voting machines. And, by the way, so-called campaign finance reform will never take place, although I can see why an incumbent like her would wish it would happen....

Anonymous said...

all I can say is Vote Quimby!

Shadow said...

Seriously. Mike DeRosa(G) is much a better candidate for Secretary of State, and Bysiewicz's points about DeStefano's ethics is also one more reason for progressives to vote Cliff Thornton for Governor, instead of throwing their votes away on DeStefano just so he can lose to Rell anyway.

CC said...

GC: Why didn't you ask her about her position on debating?

Boston Globe, 10/13:
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The Republican and Green Party candidates for Secretary of the State are joining forces and calling on Democratic Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz to participate in a debate.

Republican Richard Abbate and Green Party candidate Michael DeRosa, who've sent Bysiewicz letters in recent weeks, believe she's avoiding a public face-off.

"It's convenient for her not to debate us. The less information that the media and the public get about what's going on in this campaign, the better for her," DeRosa said.

Bysiewicz said Friday that she's willing to take part in any debate sponsored by an independent, neutral, nonpartisan group, but none have come forward to organize one. She said such groups are busy with the U.S. Senate and governor's races.

"I'm as frustrated as he is that there's less attention to our race," Bysiewicz said. "But any opportunity I get to speak at a forum, I've accepted."

Bysiewicz said she appeared at disabilities forum in Hartford on Sept. 16, but neither Abbate or DeRosa attended the event. She said she also appeared on a radio interview program but Abbate did not participate. DeRosa appeared later.

Two forums are scheduled later this month.

DeRosa said he and Abbate are organizing a debate at Yale University School of Law, Bysiewicz's alma mater, later this month. He said they are considering sending the Democrat a certified letter as an invitation to attend.

bluecoat said...

Susan is incompetent at her job. Most anybody who has had to deal with her office would agree bipartisanly. As bad as Team Rell and her Rowland holdover hacks are I voted for Abbate.

Anonymous said...

She's perty.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Bluecoat. Bysiewicz is a do-nothing incompetent. She resisted voter verified paper ballots, fought for electronic voting machines, mangled the RFP process for the new machines, was ignorant about ballot laws, and did nothing to advance campaign finance reform. Genghis should have looked at her record and asked tougher questions. Anyone would be better than Bysiewicz.

Anonymous said...

Susan handled the new voting machine HAVA process just as well as Jodi handled the rehab of the VRE rail cars - incompetence, spin and a press release as if the process went smooth as clockwork.

Anonymous said...

She's perty? Give her a black pointed hat, a long cape and a broom. She'll be right in season. The wicked witch of state.

Anonymous said...

Keeps partisan politics out of her office? Are you kidding me? Why then does the GOP have to FOI certain campaign finance reports that should be on-line the day the legislature takes up reforms? Why is it that a Republican rep, Hovey, had to sue to get on the ballot two years ago when her convention screwed up paperwork, but five dems this year who screwed up their filing were put on in an administerial move by Madame B? Their campaign committee sure saved the big legal fees that should have ensued, so isn't THAT a form of a contribution from the SOTS office to a campaign? She is a complete incompetent who will NEVER get the governor nod from the D's - they hate her as much as the R's do. tter how nasty she

Anonymous said...

Wicked Witch of State?

Thank you, Anonymous 10:26, for keeping things at a relevant and adult level. This is why a lot of people think bloggers are a joke.

When it came time to spend federal money, Secretary Bysiewicz examined everything, checked out every kind of technology, and refused to make a final decision until she was certain it was the right one. She even pulled the plug on an electronic machine last year when it became clear they were lying about their qualifications. Now, with the easy optical scanners and the phone system for the disabled, Connecticut is all set with HAVA and the feds are off our back. Nice job by the Secretary.

Call me crazy, though in a state where the former Treasurer is in jail for selling the state's coffers to the highest political bidder, where Rowland's former Chief of Staff (now in jail) gave away $200 in state money to Enron, and where Rowland threw $100 million at a private company to run DOIT and it never happened, where $50 million was wasted on a no bid contract for the training school...I don't mind a top official taking her time and being deliberate with millions of dollars.

Some people will hate her forever anyway - because she's a woman in power, because she a relentless fundraiser, because she's strong-willed, because she's perceived as less than warm - and Susan B. will not ever need those people to get ahead. She's done just fine without them. I'm proud to vote for her this year and hope she runs for Governor in 2010.

So there.

Anonymous said...

Richard J. Abbate for Secretary of The State!