SOUTHINGTON — Local registrars say they haven’t completed certification classes required by the state due to scheduling or upcoming retirement.
Officials with the Secretary of the State’s office said they’re working with registrars who haven’t yet been certified to provide class times that will work. Under the law, registrars face removal if they don’t achieve certification.
Thomas Janik, Democratic registrar, and Robert Sherman, Republican registrar, haven’t achieved certification, according to Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill.
Southington registrars are part-time and the office is open three days per week. Janik said he has family out of state and has been dealing with health problems.
“It’s just a matter of finding the time,” he said. “This is a part-time position here. I’m retired. I have a family which I try to stay involved with and both of them are out of state.”
The program requires registrars to complete eight courses and pass a final exam in order to obtain certification.
Janik was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017. He was deputy registrar for nine years before his election. He’s attended conferences twice a year with the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut where registrars are briefed on changes or new requirements.
Janik said the certification classes haven’t been scheduled at a time that worked for him.
“If I have to, I’ll plead my case for the difficulty of scheduling,” he said.
Sherman said he’s not running again when his four-year term is up in 2020.
“I’m retiring shortly,” he said. “It didn’t seem to make much sense to charge the town $1,600 for certification that I’m not going to use.”
Sherman said he’s in his 48th year working elections.
“Even without a certification, I probably know something,” he said.
Registrars with a two-year term or less, including those who fill a vacancy part way through, are required to complete the training by the end of their term, while those with four-year terms must become certified within two years.
The classes are taught through UConn. Rosenberg said Merrill’s office has worked to add more classes in response to scheduling complaints, and is working with registrars to complete the certification and avoid the need for action.
“It is obviously much more preferable to have the registrar in place and elected do the certification than to do anything else,” he said.
The state has sent registrars without certification notices about the requirement.
“We want to be flexible,” Rosenberg said. “It’s not like the heavy hand of the law.”
Voting problems in Hartford in 2014 were the impetus for legislative action, according to Rosenberg. The State Elections Enforcement Commission fined the city’s registrars nearly $10,000 for a host of failures that resulted in polling places opening late or opening without voter lists.
The legislature approved the certification program, which is required for all registrars, the following session. Merrill had initially proposed making registrars an appointed, not elected, position, and registrars accepted the training as a compromise.
“It’s an effort to professionalize the mechanics of voting,” Rosenberg said.