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Romney Wins Farmington; Statewide Turnout Prompts Talk of Change

Some registrars push for bill to limit polling place mandates.

Polling places in Farmington, as across the state, were largely empty Tuesday for the Republican presidential primary. In Farmington, as in Connecticut as a whole, Mitt Romney received the majority of support — 493 of the 702 votes cast across the town’s four polling places.

Newt Gingrich followed, with 76 votes and Ron Paul with 73. Rick Santorum received 47 votes and 13 voters cast their ballot as uncommitted.

The town has about 4,462 registered Republicans, according to Republican Registrar of Voters Ed Leary. Registrars received 75 absentee ballots. Results are unofficial until the registrars certify them.

“It’s surely disappointing and even depressing. Since Mr. Santorum gave up, the excitement of the campaign has pretty well withered away and people really aren’t in a divided camp,” Leary said.

At the polls, workers were struggling to find ways to pass the time.

“At one point we calculated we had 8.5 voters per hour,” said Bob Dube, at the . “The busiest it’s been was when we had three people at one time.”

At the , Jim Gray and Bruce Fernandez agreed turnout today was the bleakest they’d ever seen.

Still, the town was required to open all four of its regular polling places — , , the Community and Senior Center and the Farmington Library — at a cost of $11,000 for the today’s presidential primary.

A similar phenomenon was felt statewide, prompting a senate bill that would allow registrars to operate fewer polling places when voter turnout is expected to be low. Simsbury Democratic Registrar Karen Cortes is spearheading the move and will meet with legislators Wednesday to discuss Senate Bill 218, "An Act Concerning Polling Places for Primaries."

Leary said the change would make sense and reap savings for Farmington.

“That makes a lot of practical sense and cost-saving sense,” Leary said. “We’ve speculated it would be desirable for our town to do when we have referendums. It would save the town several thousand dollars every time we have a referendum but we haven’t been willing to push that.”

Cortes wrote in an email Tuesday that New York, Rhode Island and Delaware, which also held primaries today, "allow Registrars to take this cost-saving measure." She also indicated that Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Connecticut Conference of Small Towns, the Registrar of Voters Association of Connecticut and Town Clerks Association all support the bill.

The session closes in two weeks. The bill has already passed through the Government Administration and Election Committee in the state senate, as well as the Planning and Development Committee, Cortes said.

"It's on the Senate calendar waiting to be acted upon," Cortes wrote.

The senate would need to approve it, followed by the state House of Representatives before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy could sign it, she said.

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