Ask the Registrar: A Look Inside Canvassing

Is Stratford Behind Other Municipalities in Keeping Its Voting Rolls Up to Date?

Your place to get questions answered about voting and local elections in Stratford CT

By Democratic Registrar James Simon

Q: Many Democrats in Stratford have complained that the voting rolls are not up to date. Is that true?

Imagine an ideal system for keeping voting records current. You would use the National Change of Address list from the U.S. Postal Service, capturing Stratford residents who have their mail sent to a different address, either across town or out of town. You would obtain the state Department of Motor Vehicles list of people changing their address. You would examine the Town Clerk’s death registry. You would reach out to people who haven’t voted in four years, asking them if they are still active, and then give them four more years before any action to take them off the rolls. And in all cases, you would send any affected voter a letter, confirming any change before modifying the voter list.

That’s the system, under state law, that most communities including Stratford use in the first quarter of every year. I have talked to registrars in other Connecticut communities, and their process is much the same. I see no evidence we are behind what other towns are doing. It’s time-consuming, but the goal is to have the lists as accurate as possible by Election Day later in the year.

Q: I recently went to the Department of Motor Vehicles for some paperwork, and then I got a letter from them, saying my registration was changed. What happened?

The federal Motor-Voter law calls for DMVs to help citizens sign up to vote, usually after moving to Connecticut and registering their car. But in my first three weeks as Registrar, five Stratford residents complained to me that their voting registration was changed without their permission. I asked a simple question: did you happen to go to the DMV recently?

DMV customers may make a minor change in their registration – such as changing their formal first name to a nickname –that would trigger a letter to their home, confirming the change. We urge you to be careful and not introduce unwelcome changes if you use the DMV system.

Q: Can you move from Stratford to another Connecticut town, yet continue to vote in Stratford?

Yes, if you legally consider Stratford to be your “bona fide” residence. The problem: state election law does not define bona fide! People are allowed to vote in their old community, even after moving to another town, if they say they still consider the old community to be their home and might move back. Example: people going into a nursing home, or snow birds going out of state for more than half the year. But if you leave Stratford and register to vote elsewhere, the Registrar in the new town will enter your new address into the uniform state database, and your registration in the original town will be terminated.

Q: You think your neighbor is too mentally incompetent to be allowed to vote. Can a Registrar of Voters take away their voting rights in Connecticut?

No, only a Judge of Probate can act in such a case, and any such actions are exceedingly rare.

Q. As Registrar, you help keep track of voters who leave Stratford. Is it true everyone is moving to Shelton because of lower taxes?

In an unscientific survey, I looked at a random sample of 100 voters who recently moved out of town and are having their voting address changed. Only three were from Shelton. A set of a different 100 people might yield different results, but there is no evidence of a flood of Stratford residents going to any one town or to any particular geographic region. People move for such a variety of reasons, including downsizing, job opportunities, and family considerations.

More Questions? Please send them to Registrar Jim Simon;
jsimon@townofstratford.com. This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford.

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