Following the October 2011 snowstorm, many Farmington residents were without power for more than a week. And so too, were the town’s polling places as it tried to stage an election. Though the town appealed to a judge to have the election delayed, the ruling was that the election must go on.
Now, the state has mandated all Connecticut towns develop and put in place an emergency contingency plan to ensure the election will go on.
Democratic Registrar Barbara Brenneman presented the plan, developed in partnership with Republican Registrar Ed Leary (who was away) and Farmington Police Chief Paul Melanson, to the Town Council Tuesday night.
The state, Brenneman said, had provided towns with a plan but allowed them authority to customize it.
“We found it cumbersome, expensive and complicated,” Brenneman said, adding that the state’s plan included many homeland security-type issues.
To simplify the plan, the registrars included the plan as part of the town’s own emergency operations plan, allowing it to be tied into the town’s emergency notification system, among other things. They included emergency procedures to care for both the safety of the public and the continuity of voting.
The plan provides for designated alternative locations for voting, should one of the polls lose power. It also points to battery backup available for scanners and if that should fail, the hand counting of ballots.
Registrars are to keep several extra ballots on hand for each poll to allow for printing more ballots as needed.
The state plan called for generators to back up each scanner machine, paying extra employees in advance to serve as backup poll workers and other measures that Brenneman said were just too expensive for Farmington to implement.
“You don’t need power to have an election. If an emergency happened – say something happened at the Community Center. We have already designated that the library or Town Hall could be an alternate site. We would take the ballot box, scanner and black box. The poll workers would come to the designated place and continue,” Brenneman said. “We would not stop an election.”
“This plan, in our mind, is simple and direct and meets the requirements the state set forth,” Brenneman said.
The council generally applauded Brenneman for the registrars’ work in simplifying the document.