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Bill professionalizing Connecticut election system moves to governor

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Local Connecticut voting officials will be required to undergo new training and certification under a bill that cleared the House of Representatives on Monday night and now awaits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's signature.

The bill, which passed on a 126-50 vote, also includes a process for removing problematic local registrars of voters who run the elections.

The legislation stems from a string of problems at the polls last November, including in Hartford where some polling places did not open on time, keeping voters waiting for more than an hour. The delay prompted President Barack Obama to call a local radio station and urge people who left the polling places in frustration to return later in the day and vote.

"I can't think of a more frustrating day for me in my political career," Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, said of that election day.

"Some might say training, removal, these things seem controversial," Ritter said of the bill, "but we don't have enough ability to deal with problems that fester."

Besides mandatory training and certification of registrars, the bill has a process for removing a registrar for gross misconduct or incompetence. It also allows the Secretary of the State to temporarily relieve from duty registrars who fail to obtain their certification or are being investigated for any matters related to their duties.

"It is important for voters to know that when something goes wrong, that's either intentional or worse, that something can be done about it," said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, adding how the provision "brings some accountability."

Melissa Russell, president of the registrar of voters association, said her group supports the compromise legislation, which keeps the current system of elected partisan registrars. She said the bill provides much-needed technology and the ability to provide results faster.

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