One way or another, CL&P promises power at polls

Connecticut Light & Power, the state’s largest electric utility, promised Thursday night it will provide power to every polling place in its service area on Tuesday, either by the completion of restoration work or by providing temporary generators.

“It is on our high priority list,” said William Quinlan, a CL&P vice president.

United Illuminating expects to have power restored to polling places in its smaller territory, a hard-hit stretch of shoreline from New Haven to Bridgeport, said Tony Marone, a senior vice president.

Marone said 143 of the 192 polling places in UI’s 17 cities and towns have power, 25 are without and the status of 24 are being checked.

A major goal of candidates and elections officials is to avoid the confusion of having to relocate polls so late in the campaign season. In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch said he expected power to be restored to the eight or nine polling places now without power.

UI officials strongly objected Thursday to complaints by Finch and others that the utility was slighting the city in its repair efforts. Marone said 41 percent of Bridgport was blacked out, compared with 49 percent in Fairfield, 72 percent in Trumbull and 82 percent in Easton.

Marone reported two or three incidents of harassment of line workers in Bridgeport, including a truck that was pelted with eggs.

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill reported earlier Thursday that electrical power has been restored to another 30 to 35 polling places with Election Day just five days off.

But her office still was reporting close to 100 polling places without power — the same number she reported mid-day Wednesday before the latest round of repairs took place.

How does that add up?

It’s because Wednesday’s estimate didn’t include any numbers from United Illuminating.

So while Connecticut Light & Power Co. reported 100 polling places without power in its jurisdiction Wednesday, and between 65 and 70 still without power as repairs continued late Thursday afternoon, UI weighed in for the first time Thursday — and reported 25 polling places out of power in its service area.

Do the math, and that leaves 90 to 95 polling sites — most of which are schools, senior centers or other municipal buildings — still without service late Thursday afternoon.

“At this point, we are monitoring the situation very closely with our partners at the local level who must administer the presidential election on Tuesday November 6,” Merrill wrote in a statement Thursday after conferring with officials from both companies.  “We still have some polling places that lack electricity, and both power utilities have assured us they are working very hard to restore power to these locations as soon as possible.”

There are 773 polling places statewide spread across the state’s 169 cities and towns.

Merrill added that “at the local level, towns and cities are already executing their election preparation functions and backup plans where necessary for preparing voter lists and making sure the voting machines are ready to use next Tuesday.  We will be ready to vote next Tuesday no matter what, and the preferences would be not to move or consolidate any polling locations unless absolutely necessary.”

The president of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, Bethlehem Republican Registrar Melissa J. Russell, said she and her colleagues have been keeping handwritten updates of voter lists to record people who have registered since Hurricane Sandy caused more than 600,000 outages statewide Monday and early Tuesday.

“It is paramount that people be able to vote,” Russell said, adding that registrars will use their handwritten lists to help check-in new voters on Election Day.

The deadline for potential voters to register to cast a ballot on Election Day originally was this past Tuesday, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy extended that deadline until 8 p.m. Thursday, because of the hurricane.

Residents who fail to meet the registration deadline still can cast a ballot for president only. Under state law, citizens can obtain a presidential ballot at town or city hall from their municipal clerk up to the close of business on Election Day.

State law doesn’t have any provision for postponing the election, and Merrill noted Wednesday that all election machines are capable of functioning on battery power.

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