Plan B for voting next week? Polling places may be changed

It’s too early to tell how Hurricane Sandy will affect elections in Connecticut next Tuesday, but that hasn’t stopped officials from thinking about a plan B.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said today that elections officials in each town were required to come up with emergency plans after last year’s freak October snowstorm that had some impact on municipal elections. She said that as long as local registrars have phone access, they’ll be joining a conference call Wednesday to discuss any issues leading up to Nov. 6.

“For example, if there are widespread power outages, whether we can move polling places. In this case, it’s a federal election, so we can’t cancel or postpone the election at all.”

Right now Merrill says it’s fingers crossed as the state waits to see the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

“This would be very difficult to manage, I won’t kid you about that,” Merrill said. “Because you have such a volume of people who want to vote. So local elections officials will be overwhelmed if this all gets shoved into next week.

“It’s not an easy task to get people registered, the lists ready and everybody voting if there are polling places that don’t have any power. And when you start consolidating them, then it really gets dicey,” she said.

On Sunday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy extended the voter registration deadline from Tuesday to Thursday at 8 p.m. If damage and power outages prevent residents from registering, Merrill said the deadline could be moved into the weekend.

Meanwhile, the fact that two major weather events have come very close to elections in the past year has raised the question of why Connecticut doesn’t have early voting.

Merrill said that the state Constitution makes it hard to offer that option. But lawmakers are working on it.

More than two dozen states have some form of early voting or mail-in voting.