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Longtime Meriden registrar of voters to retire amid concern over absence

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MERIDEN — Maureen Flynn, the city’s longtime Democratic Registrar of Voters, will retire when her term expires in early January 2023.

In an email dated May 4 to Meriden Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson, Flynn cited ongoing health concerns. By the time Flynn leaves office at the end of her term, she will have served as the Democratic registrar for 24 years.

“I have enjoyed my years as Registrar of Voters, and I think, I was trying to make it to 25 years,” Flynn wrote. 

Democrats recently nominated Staci Roy as Flynn’s successor. She is likely to run unopposed in November.   

Roy would carry out the duties on a part-time basis. Flynn has worked a full-time schedule, allowing her to obtain city health insurance benefits. To qualify, registrars must work at least 30 hours a week. 

Flynn, in her retirement letter, noted that her successor, per state statute, will be required to undergo training and an exam to be certified as a registrar.

Registrars must also complete eight hours of training annually to maintain certification. 

Flynn described the registrar’s office as “accommodating to all voters no matter what party.”

“That's the only way this office should work,” she wrote. “...outside the office we support our candidates and work for our candidates. We call this Switzerland, neutral territory. We have to work together inside the office but outside we work for our own.”

Flynn was first elected in November 1998. Prior to that, she served under former Democratic Registrar Betsy Gassman as deputy registrar. She was also involved with the Democratic Town Committee. Flynn said her uncle, O.J. Gaffney, served as a registrar of voters previously as well. 

Flynn said a lot has changed from the time she first was elected, including the transition from manual lever voting machines to machines that scan paper ballots.

During her tenure, the city has undergone three different redistricting cycles, following each U.S. Census count.

After the City Council approves new voting districts, the registrars are then tasked with determining new polling places. 

Flynn said that she and fellow registrars came to an agreement that there was no room for political agendas in the office. 

“If you want to politic you go outside,” she said. “You don’t politic in the office. That was a good accomplishment.”

Concern over absence

Leaders of both the Democratic and Republican town committees acknowledged concerns about the office’s duties being carried out during Flynn’s absence, especially in a year when voting district boundaries were being redrawn. 

Torres-Ferguson, the Democratic chair, said she had conversations with city officials about the fact Democratic registrars hadn’t been present in-person during that redistricting.

Torres-Ferguson said she had reached out to the Secretary of the State’s office to see what the town committee’s options are. 

Torres-Ferguson said the response she received from the state is that, “It’s not our job to provide oversight on the day-to-day activities.” The Secretary of the State’s office is more focused on the carrying out of elections. 

State statute does allow for a hearing process to remove a local registrar from office, Torres-Ferguson said. Local Democrats are not pursuing that option. 

Republican Town Chairwoman Elain Cariati said similarly that she has heard from Republican Registrar Suzanne Flynn that she is “swamped doing the Democrats’ things.”

Suzanne Flynn and Maureen Flynn are not related.

Cariati said she has raised her concerns with city officials. She believes TImothy Coon, the city manager, “needs to start making these employees accountable. They fall under him.”

She asked, “Where’s the accountability?”

‘Gray area’

Maureen Flynn addressed concerns about her physical presence in the registrars’ office. She was seriously ill and for a time and did need to be hospitalized. But, she said, even if she wasn’t a presence in the office, she was still fulfilling the job’s responsibilities — for example, making phone calls from home and from the hospital.

“We tried to space it out. Even at home. I would do a lot of the phone calling...If anything comes over on email. I would call Sue. We would split it up like that,” Maureen Flynn said. 

Payroll records showed the registrars earned about $33,000 to $34,000 annually for a 40-hour work week. 

Suzanne Flynn declined to comment for this story. 

Cariati said Suzanne Flynn will seek another term as Republican registrar. “We work great with her,” Cariati said. “She is doing everything possible. It’s not fair for her when someone is getting a salary and she is doing the work of two.”

Coon confirmed he was made aware of concerns regarding Maureen Flynn’s lack of attendance. 

“I knew that she was medically fragile to begin with and had been out for a while,” Coon said, explaining she had sought remote work arrangements, which the city authorized. 

The Registrars of Voters, which are elected positions, serve as the chief election officials in Meriden. They oversee all primaries, elections and special elections.

The registrars “are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the City's Election process, the machinery used to cast ballots, and the counting of all absentee ballots, including preserving the privacy of all votes and the accuracy of the vote count,” according to a description of the office on the Meriden city website. 

The registrars are responsible for overseeing a staff of more than 200 part-time employees, including training. Also the setup and final inspection of all voting machines. 

Registrars also are responsible for maintaining voter rolls and registrations, conducting absentee ballot voting and responding to civil rights concerns related to voting. 

Coon said he has communicated with both registrars about in-person attendance. He said the Democratic registrar needs to respond to her Republican counterpart’s request to take on a greater share of job responsibilities. 

Coon said because the registrar’s position is elected, his office has little oversight over in-person attendance, other than for health insurance purposes. 

“That’s kind of a gray area,” Coon said. 

Those questions aside, Roy, who will likely succeed Maureen Flynn in the Democratic registrar’s role, commended the incumbent for her decades served in office. 

“I really do appreciate Maureen for her 24 years of service to the community as our Registrar of Voters,” Roy said. “The last couple of years notwithstanding, to serve a community for 24 years is phenomenal.”

Roy is a long-time member of the Democratic Town Committee and served as the committee’s treasurer for many years. Roy said she is excited to take on the challenge, to learn more about the process of running elections and to make continual improvements in the registrar’s office. 

Roy, once on board, will need to take the requisite courses to be certified as a registrar, which she will take on part-time. She will need to appoint a deputy and will need to get someone hired to work full-time in the office. 

Roy said she would like to work with area colleges and the city’s high schools to bring interns on board. 

“I’ve always been one that thinks everyone should vote,” Roy said. “We have a right to vote. And it’s important that everyone vote. I’m actually very excited to take this on.”

Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at mgagne@record-journal.com.


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