Wells explains challenges in compiling election results; polling problems alleged

Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells, Wednesday in CIty Hall.

Antiquated software and printers factored into the time needed to produce results from last week’s election, Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said.

He has not commented on complaints of problems at the polls.

Polling issues?

Former Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez said she hadn’t heard of problems at the polls but Republican Town Committee Chairman Fred Wilms and Lisa Brinton, Independent Party Norwalk Town Committee Chairwoman, indicated otherwise.

Wilms said he’d heard of machine problems at West Rocks and Ponus, where District D voters cast ballots. Brinton said she’d gotten feedback from a District C poll worker about problems.

“I heard about the machine problems in D, but the issues in C were personnel ‘competency’ and ‘quality control’ ballot issues,” Brinton wrote. “Nothing nefarious – but sloppy – like accidentally putting two ballots in a folder or not always manning the ballot clerk hand out table & people taking ballots on their own. This particular poll worker said there were ‘holes’ in the system.”

Neither Republican Registrar Brian Smith nor Wells replied to a Friday email giving them a chance to respond to the complaints. On Monday, Smith said they’d had Friday off due to the holiday and he’d look into it. No one contacted them Tuesday with complaints, he said.

Updated, 1:11 p.m.: More information.

Soon-to-be-replaced software

A data entry screen that doesn’t show all the data.

Wells, speaking to NancyOnNorwalk before the polling complaint issue arose, said getting results off a District D tabulator was difficult because it was “melting down.”

Historically, registrars have produced tentative election results hours after polling, even though they’d begun work at 6 a.m. Election Day. In 2021, Wells sent numbers at 11:08 p.m., cautioning that they hadn’t been double checked and did not include election day registration results and hand counts.

This year, the results were available Wednesday afternoon.

Wells said the 10-year-old State election software was designed to produce pretty results, not to make entering information efficient or easy and not designed to doublecheck results.

It might work great for smaller communities, but the entry field only shows 3.5 digits and Norwalk has four in many of the entries. So, a registrar can’t see the entire number and sometimes doesn’t catch a mistake until it’s printed out.

The information must be entered by hand, a tedious process, and sometimes the data drops out mysteriously.

Fortunately, the current administration is replacing the software, he said.

A tape from Election Night.

But the printers that produce the result tapes at polling places are “old Epson style line printers,” meaning they produce one dotty line at a time, very slowly. You could get the numbers electronically if there were optical characters and it would be protected from the Internet. But to get the information electronically, you’d have to use a 1200 baud modem, which were common in the 1980s.

People suggest that the information go on a flash drive, according to Wells. That would be nice if there were a slot to insert a flash drive into, he said.

Then there’s the problem of more information to sort through.

“Everybody runs cross endorsed now, instead of a number for them and a number for their opponent, I get four numbers for each,” he said.

Election Day Registration produces information that didn’t used to be an issue; there are more tapes to slowly print and review.

Next year, Connecticut has mandated 14 days of early voting for the Presidential election, he said.

“The last early voting day is Sunday, two days before the election,” Wells said. “There’s going to be 1,000 people voting early that last Sunday. That has to get in the system; I don’t see a time to do it other than to come in Sunday night and work till midnight.

“Nobody wants to think about how it actually accomplish these wonderful ideas. Then they want the results immediately. What’s worse is they get suspicious when we don’t give it to them immediately. Just let me get it off electronically, I’d get it to you right away.”


2 responses to “Wells explains challenges in compiling election results; polling problems alleged”

  1. Bryan Meek

    Who has money for an updated voting system when we have Halloween parties to throw?

    1. Bob Schumann

      Brian, The City of Norwalk is not in charge of buying or maintaining the voting machines or any related apperatus. The State of Connecticut is.

      As you can see below, Governor Lamont almost two months ago, announced that new “ballot-counting tabulators for use in elections and primaries statewide” are in the process of being purchased.

      Trick or Treat!


      Governor Lamont Announces Bond Commission Set To Approve $25 Million for New Voting Machines

      (HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the Connecticut State Bond Commission will vote at its upcoming meeting to approve an allocation of $25 million that will be used to purchase new ballot-counting tabulators for use in elections and primaries statewide. The equipment will replace Connecticut’s existing voting machines, which are used at every polling place in the state to tabulate the choices that voters make on their paper ballots.

      The governor, who serves as chair of the commission and sets its meeting agendas, said that he is recommending the members to approve the funding because the existing machines, which were first put into use in 2006, are beginning to show signs of aging and should be replaced for the continued functioning of accurate and timely election results. The allocation is being placed on the agenda for approval at the commission’s October 6, 2023, meeting.

      “The machines we use to record votes are the backbone of our election system, and it is essential that we provide election officials with the equipment they need to tabulate results with accuracy and timeliness,” Governor Lamont said. “Although our existing machines continue to function, they are more than 17 years old and election officials tell us that they are starting to show their age. Implementing a statewide replacement of all these machines now will ensure that election workers continue to have the tools they need to conduct an Election Day that runs smooth and free of any glitches that could potentially be caused by outdated technology.”

      Following the commission’s approval of the funding, it is anticipated that the Office of the Secretary of the State will solicit proposals from manufacturers to supply the state with the equipment. Once purchased, the state will provide the equipment to every municipality and the existing equipment will be retired. The state is funding the entirety of the cost to purchase the equipment. It is estimated that the allocation will enable the state to purchase several thousand traditional tabulators and dozens of high-speed tabulators used to tally absentee ballots.

      This will be the first time the state is implementing a statewide replacement of all its voting machines since it eliminated the use of lever machines 17 years ago and made a switch to machines that read paper ballots as part of a nationwide requirement enacted by Congress in 2002 for states to have voting systems that keep a paper record of every vote cast in case an election is audited or recounted. Because lever voting machines cannot produce a paper ballot, they were retired from use.

      The October 6, 2023, meeting of the State Bond Commission will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Additionally, video of the meeting will stream live online at ct-n.com.


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