Friday, November 21, 2008

The Obama Administration...

Lots of talk of who's in, and who's not....but there may be a Connecticut connection being forged. Not in one of the high profile spots that everyone is talking about.

Ned Lamont, in a conversation I had with him just days before the election, told me he would be going down to Washington this month to see if there might be a spot in the Obama Administration for himself. Lamont was co-chair of Obama's Connecticut campaign. He said he didn't have anything specific in mind, but was interested in seeing if there might be something that could interest him.

While on the subject, I asked if his inerests in seeking elected office has waned since the 2006 Senate campaign. It hasn't....but that shouldn't be translated into speculation that he might make another Senate run in 2012, he said. Although not commiting to anything specific, he didn't rule out the possibility of making a run in 2010....but not for U.S. Senate. More like Hartford, and not in the General Assembly.

If you want to speculate on Democratic cotenders for governor....add Lamont's name to the list of maybes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Heading towards the home stretch...

One of the more interesting aspects of today's tour of polling places was the mood of voters. It didn't matter whether it took four minutes or forty minutes, votes were came ready to be part of something. It's an historic election no matter what the outcome, but it wasn't history that voters were feeling.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain struck a chord with voters this year. Voter interest in this year's election has been high from the beginning, and it has never faded. The conventions, the debates, the primary coverage -- all of them setting record level of audience viewing. You jut don't get the sense, as you have in past years, that people simply wanted ths over....enough is enough. Not this year. It's almost like people have been anxiously awaiting today, their chance to be part of something.

It was really something special to see and feel.

If anyone is interested, I'll be making a voice appearence on radio station WXLM (104.7 FM) at around 8:20 tonight talking about the election and what the night and how the night might develop. I'm guessing we might get a sense of that in just over an hour. Virginia's polls close at 7 p.m. and that should tell us something.

Not the surge it was four and eight years ago...

That is in terms of Presidential Ballots at the Brooklyn Town Hall. By 3:25 p.m., a total of 32 Presidential Ballots had been handed out -- nearly half of the 63 handed out four years ago.

One of the reasons for a lower Presidential Ballot turnout this year may be the higher enrollment of new voter registrations this year -- meaning fewer unregistered voters to take advantage of the Presidential Ballots. The few folks I have encountered seeking Presidential Ballots are folks who had registered through a state agency or mail, only to find out today that the paperwork never made it through the channels.

Not surprisingly, voter turnout in Brooklyn is as strong in Brooklyn as it has been everywhere I've been today. At 2:45 p.m., the total number of voters who had voted was 2,297 -- quickly approcahing the 50 percent mark as we now near 4 p.m.

"It's the biggest (turnout) I've seen in my years here," said Janet St. Jean, Democratic Registrar of Voters.

It's a pretty good bet it will be the biggest turnout overall by the time all is said and done.

Time to head back to the office in Norwich.

Seeing can be disbelieving...

Things are relative quiet at Canterbury Town Hall. Of the 19 privacy booths that are set up, only five are occupied at this moment. Another six voters are in line waiting to check in. It is a far different sight than what I've witnessed elsewhere today.

But that doesn't mean things are slow. They're averaging about 20 voters an hour since the poll opened at 6 a.m. -- and by 2:30, more than 50 percent of the roughly 3,400 eligible voters had already cast ballots. Election official here are estimating as many as 2,800 or 2,900 will vote before the day is over. If true, that would put Canterbury well into the 90-percentile for turnout.

The last time I was in Canterbury for an election was three years ago. Voter turnout on that day was in the mid 80 percent -- and that was a local election. When the opolls closed at 8 p.m. that night, the line was stil stretched into the parking loot and the poll was kept open until the last person in line voted.

It's anticipated the line will again be out the door by 5 this afternoon -- and remaining like that until the poll closes at 8, unless they need to keep the polling place open a little longer to accommodate those last minute arrivals.

Pass the halfway point....

With just about six hours remaining before polls close today, traffic at polling places throughout the region remains steady. Here at the Griswold Town Hall, one of two voting places in town, just over 40 percent of the eligible voters have already cast votes -- and things have gone especially smooth. And that's something to say. Parking is limited at the Town Hall and the area set aside for voting is the meeting room...a bit cramped today with the tables, machines, poll workers -- and then steady stream of voters.

Our of nearly 1,200 ballots cast thus far, only about 25 have been rejected mostly due to over-voting (where voters have checked off more than one name in a particular race). Twenty-five out of 1,200 isn't bad at all. In each case, the initial ballot with the error was destroyed and the voter given a second ballot to fill out.

Upstairs is where the town has set a conference room for Presidential Ballots. As of 1 p.m., 55 unregistered voters had cast Presidential Ballots. Election officials thought that was "rather high" given the time of the day. Four years ago, there were 129 Presidential Ballots cast -- and the expectation is that number will likely be passed later today when the final surge comes after work.

We'll continue our tour up Route 12 now.

Some registration problems....

During my travels to various polling places this morning I came across two young, first-tme voters casting Presidential Ballots. Naturally, I was curious as to why they felt so strongly about voting for president, but not so strongly about registering so they could vote in every race.

Both, it turns out, had registered....or at least they thought they had only to learn this morning that their names were not on the voting rolls.

Adrianne Sostre, 27, of Montville filled out a registration at the Department of Motor Vehilces a year ago, but for some reason the paperwork never made its way to the Montville Town Hall. She said she was disappointed because she was looking forward to voting in all the races and today's referendum questions. Instead, however, she found herself in the town clerk's office casting a vote only for president.

Pete Gamble, 18, of Preston was in a similar boat. He had filled out a mail-in registration form a month or so ago, but that somehow got lost in the shuffle and he, too, was in the town clerk's office at Preston Town Hall filling out a presidential ballot.

Although both disappointed, neither blamed annyone for the mix up, sayng that next time they'll check earlier and make sure their names are listed.

And just for the record, both voted for Obama.

I'll be hitting the road again in a few minutes, heading north of Norwich to see how the afternoon is shaping up.

The hottest race in the region...District 47

If there was any doubt about what rece --besides the presidential contest -- is the hottest in the region, one only has to take a look at what's going at the American Legion Post on Route 12 in Norwich. The post is the polling place for Noriwch's Precincts 5, 6 and 7. Precients 6 and 7 are in the 46th Assembly District where incumbent state Rep. Melissa Olson, D-Norwich, is running unopposed.

Precint 5 is in the 47th Assembly District where incumbent state Rep. Jack Malone, D-Norwich, is facing the hardest re-election bid of his political career against Republican Chris Coutu -- and the line out the door and down the driveway is evidence of just how hotly contested this race is.

Voters in Precinct 5 are waiting on average of 15 to 25 minutes before actually getting their ballots. Voters in the two other precincts are simply walking in, and walking out minutes later.

"It wasn't too bad," said Precinct 5 resident Orenise Coleman. "I took a little extra time myself."

The bigger problem all voters at the post are encountering is parking. Cars are standng idle in the driverway waiting for voters to come out in the hopes of taking that place....and then they get into the other line to vote.

Time now to head into the office and get some other work done. Later today we'll try and head out again and see how the afternoon progresses.

The first lines to be encountered...

Cars lined both sides of the driveway off Route 2 leading to the Preston Town Hall, and the line of people waiting to vote extended out the building. It is the first backlog of voters I've seen on my travels this morning.

Inside, however, things were running smoothly. "About five minutes," said Lou DePina, a Preston resident and Norwich Recreation Department Director, when asked how long it took for him to vote. "I parked way down the driveway, so I expected it was going to be a lot longer."

He said it took his wife 25 minutes to vote when she came to the polling place earlier this morning.

Upstairs in the town clerk's office, business for Presidntial Ballots was very slow. Only five for the day. Four yearts ago, they handed out 47 Presidential Ballots. The biggest push,m officials said, wil probably come later this afternoon when people get out of work.

Preston is also the first polling place I've come to today that didn't bring on extra staff for today's election.

"It's just anotehr day at the office," said Moderator Ted Powell.

When asked if this was the busiest he's seen, Powell smiled, shook his head and said, Utopia."

Enough said.

Back over to Route 12, and into Norwich.

A full house...

Driving into the parking lot at the Ledyard Central School, you get the impression that this is going to be a long wait.

"Two minutes," said resident Len Coley when asked how long he spent in line to vote. "It's looks like it's really busy, but it's moving quickly."

More than 1,000 out of an estimated 9,000 eligible voters had cast their ballots by 9:30 this morning, and more and more voters continued to arrive in a steady stream. The real difficulty was finding a parking space.

As what has become a commont theme today, the day began with long lines.

"It was out the door and down the sidewalk," said Moderator Pat Weiner, a 12-year veteran of election operations.

And there are a lot of new voters showing up. According to Weiner, that included a couple in the 90s -- voting for the very first time.

An extra benefit at the Ledyard Central School this morning -- flu shots. The town's public health department was offering flu shots to voters for those who wanted it.

Very busy...

Nearly every privacy booth at the Mohegan Fire Station was filled, the line of voters at the door waiting patiently to move up to the tables to check in. And this, according to election officials, is "slow." When the polled opened this morning, the line was out the building into the parking lot.

Moderator John O'Keffe said at 9 a.m. the polling place had seen about a 21 percent turnout for the day. O'Keffe wsaid it's been the busiest he's seen in years....and he's being doing this for more than 25 years. It's the busiest I've seen so far this morning since leaving East Lyme.

No doubt it is the presidential contest that is the big drawn here. This is one polling places where voters have no choice in terms of the General Aeembly contests. State Sen. Ed ith Prague, D-Columbia, and state Reps. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, and Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, all of whom represent Montville's Districts 2 and 5, are running unopposed.

Slow and steady...

That's how polling moderator Tom Bartok, a 10-year veteran of election work, described turnout at Montville Town Hall this morning. Voters in the Districts 1 and 6 vote at Town Hall. By 8 a.m., just over 11 percent, 140 out of 1,300 eligible voters, had cast ballots. Districts 1 and 6 are the smallest of the town's six voting districts. Over at the Fair Oaks School, Districts 3 and 4, two rooms have been set up for voting in the town's largest districts.

"We had a line at 6 when we opened," Bartok said, "but now it's tappered off. It's slow, but it's been steady."

Like many polling places today, extra staff has been hired, but at 8 a.m., you wouldn't think the extra bodies would be needed. However, the largest rush of the day will come after 4 p.m., and that's when election officials believe the extra staff will be needed.

We'll head up Route 32 now, eventually making our way over to Ledyard and Preston. But since we're passing by, we'll make a quick stop at the Mohegan Fire Station wher to other districts will be voting.

A quiet start to the day...

At least at the Montville Town Clerk's Office. The office typically opens at 8 a.m., but this morning it was open and staffed at 6 a.m. in anticipation of those seeking Presidential Ballots. In the first hour and half, five unregistered voters had been in to cast votes in the presidential race.

The town handed out 239 Presidential Ballots in the 2004 election. Expectations here are that it will be higher before the day is done. Extra staff is being brought in to work in the clerk's office.

There have also been over 500 absentee ballots handed out in Montville. All those will be tallied later this evening and added to the machine count when the polls close at 8 p.m.

The parking lot at Town Hall, one of three voting places in Montville, is not very crowded and you get no indication of long lines from the outside of the building. I'll take a walk down the hall to where the votes are actually being cast and see how things are going there.

Four minutes....

That's how long it too to cast my ballot this morning. I entered the community center and got in line at 6:58 a.m., and deposited my ballot in the electronic scanner at 7:02 a.m.

Quick, but mostly a function of a well-organized operation by election officials. They do appear to have more poll workers than normal, and the flow is being handled quite efficiently. I probably spent more time locating a parking space -- turnout is very brisk -- and spending a few minutes chating with the two state representative candidates, incumbent state Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, and Republican challenger Greg Ellis, also of East Lyme, both of whom were out early to greet voters this morning at the polling place.

Now it's up I-395 and a stop at Montville to see how well things are there this morning.

And the day begins.....

Polls opened about 45 minutes ago. In a few minutes I'll begin my long trek into the office, stopping at a number of polling places along the way. The first stop this morning will be the East Lyme Library/Community Center -- my polling place -- so that I can cast my ballot in this historic election.

Typically, it's usually pretty smooth, not much of a delay this early in the morning. However, with higher than normal projections of voters expected today, it will be interesting to see how long it takes to work my way through the lines this morning.

I'll update the blog with that information after I vote.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The end in sight...

The best part of Election Day for me has always been getting out of the office and to the polling places to talk with voters as they leave. With the long lines expected tomorrow, I'm not sure how many folks might be willing to take a few minutes to talk, but I guess I'll find out.

Beginning in the morning, I'll start hitting the polls as I work my way into the office, and then back out to the polls later in the day. From 8 p.m. on, I'll be here working -- well into the night (early morning) I suspect.

I'll be updating the blog throughout the day, reporting on what I see and what I hear. Feel free to add your thoughts during the day as well.