Part of my job as the Durham Democratic Registrar of Voters is to maintain the Durham voter database. So I was dismayed when I read Linda Szynkowicz’s opinion piece with her view that our database is corrupt.
Since Ms. Szynkowicz appears to have misunderstood our voting system, I encourage her to discuss these issues with her local election officials and absentee ballot counters.
The voting process has safeguards that Ms. Szynkowicz omitted. Our voter database is undergoing constant revision during the year and data that looks wrong is not necessarily wrong.
Registrars spend a lot of time maintaining accurate databases. We need to know where people live so they can receive the correct ballot. Any database is a balance between the costs of maintaining a perfect database and the accuracy of the data.
I do not claim that our database is completely accurate – our voters are constantly marrying, moving, dieing, etc. But the voter database is constantly revised. We process information from death notices, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the USPS, notices from other states, registrations in other towns, obituaries and other sources. Once a year the state provides a list of all duplicates in towns across the state.
Some voters look like duplicates, but are actually two separate people with the same names and birthdate.
Absentee voting has been enshrined in our state constitution since 1932. Mailing absentee ballots for the Aug. 11 primaries will save a step for the voter by not requiring every active registered Democrat or Republican to request an absentee ballot, since the SOTS will send an application form to every eligible voter.
After that, the usual process takes place. The voter fills out the form and returns the application. The Town Clerk verifies the voter’s credentials and arranges for the correct absentee ballot to be mailed to the voter. The voter then fills out the ballot and returns it, according to directions, by Aug. 11.
Every year, according to state and federal law, registrars must contact voters to determine if voters have moved out of town. Here in Connecticut, if a voter does not return the mailing, we do not take away their Constitutional right to vote because they did not return a notice from their town. Instead, we put them on an inactive list. If they try to vote, they have to prove who they are and that they live in town before they are reinstated to vote.
Ms. Szynkowicz does not distinguish between a voting list and an official voting list for an election. For example, when the SOTS sends out absentee ballot applications to all eligible voters, by definition, that does not include ineligible ones.
Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 before Nov. 3 are allowed to vote in the primaries on Aug. 11 under the state constitution. Other 17-year-olds do not appear on the official voting list and will not be sent applications.
Not all data that looks like a mistake is a mistake. For example, voters often tell me, “I’ve lived at this address for 10 years. That person doesn’t live there.” If an American voter lives overseas, she votes at the last place in America that she lived before she moved overseas.
What looks like a mistake is actually accurate.
I have been confounded in how to reply to Ms Synkowicz’s opinion piece. Despite not having her “investigation” before me, I have tried to respond to some of her claims. I have been told that none of her complaints to the State Election Enforcement Commission have ever been found to be valid. If she wants to actually fix the system, she should contact the registrars so that we can correct any problems she has found.
In the meantime, I consider it my civic and patriotic duty to continue to do everything in my power to provide a fair, secure and safe election for all Durham voters.