Hit The Books: Training and Certification Language in Compromise Connecticut Bill

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[Image courtesy of theproducersperspective]

Last week, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill and local registrars reached a compromise on proposed legislation (SB1051) intended to modernize election administration in the state – a move prompted in large part by election problems in Bridgeport and Hartford during the last two elections. The bill was approved by a key Senate committee and is moving forward in the state Assembly.

There has been lots of coverage of the more political aspects of the compromise; namely, that registrars will still be elected (which Merrill’s original bill would have eliminated). On those issues, my friend and colleague Mindy Moretti had a nice roundup in last week’s electionlineWeekly.

But I’d like to focus on a portion of the bill that gets mentioned in passing but hasn’t been examined in depth: the training and certification requirements. Here’s how they currently read after adoption of the committee substitute:

Sec. 13. Section 9-192a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage and applicable upon the expiration of the term of office of any registrar of voters serving on said date of passage):

(a) There is created a committee for the purpose of establishing programs and procedures for training, examining and certifying registrars of voters and deputy registrars of voters. The committee shall consist of six members, one of whom shall be from the office of the Secretary of the State, one of whom shall be from the State Elections Enforcement Commission, and four of whom shall be registrars of voters. The Secretary of the State shall appoint the registrars of voters who shall serve on such committee.The committee members shall serve without pay. The Secretary of the State shall determine the length of the terms of the initial members, in accordance with the following: Two of such members shall serve for a one-year term; two of such members shall serve for a two-year term; and two of such members shall serve for a four-year term. Thereafter, all members shall serve for four-year terms. The committee shall select a chairperson, who shall be one of the registrars who is a member of the committee.

(b) The committee shall adopt criteria for the training, examination and certification requirements of registrars and deputy registrars. In the adoption of such criteria, the committee (1) shall consider whether the prescribed training leading to certification may, in part, be satisfied through participation in the required two conferences a year called by the Secretary of the State, pursuant to section 9-6, as amended by this act, for purposes of discussing the election laws, procedures or matters related to election laws and procedures, and (2) may recommend programs at one or more institutions of higher education that satisfy such criteria. Either the registrar of voters or deputy registrar of voters of each municipality shall participate in the course of training prescribed by the committee and, upon completing such training and successfully completing any examination or examinations prescribed by the committee, shall be recommended by the committee to the Secretary of the State as a candidate for certification as a certified Connecticut registrar of voters. The Secretary of the State shall certify any such qualified, recommended candidate as a certified Connecticut registrar of voters. The Secretary of the State may rescind any such certificate only upon a finding, by a majority of the committee, of sufficient cause as defined by the criteria adopted pursuant to this subsection.

(c) The committee shall also (1) develop a training program in election procedures for poll workers, and (2) develop an election law and procedures training program and guide for registrars and deputy registrars. The training program developed under subdivision (2) of this section shall provide for training to be conducted by designees of the Secretary of the State hired for such purpose by said Secretary. The committee shall submit such training programs and training guide to the Secretary of the State, who shall approve or modify the programs and guide.

Sec. 14. Section 9-192b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage and applicable upon the expiration of the term of office of any registrar of voters serving on said date of passage):

Each registrar of voters shall annually designate either such registrar or the deputy registrar of voters to receive at least ten hours of instruction under the elections training program developed under subdivision (2) of subsection (c) of section 9-192a, as amended by this act.

A few observations:

  1. Given Connecticut’s bi- (or in Hartford, tri-)partisan structure, it will be interesting to see if all parties seek to have “their” registrars certified;
  2. Curriculum will be key – whether the training comes via annual meetings or “one or more institutions of higher education” it will be important that the training be substantive and not merely an attendance-based “check the box” requirement; and
  3. It’s good to see that pollworkers will get their own training – as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the polling place is where most election problems occur and giving pollworkers the tools and information they need is critical.

All in all, this is a fascinating development; while the compromise leaves much of Connecticut’s election structure unchanged, these training and certification requirements offer the promise of a deeper commitment to professionalism in election administration.

In order to see that promise fulfilled, we wait to see if the bill makes it to enactment and if it’s implemented in the spirit of improving (and not merely changing) training and certification in the Nutmeg State.

Stay tuned …

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