Bridgeport elections never disappoint whether low turnouts, high turnouts or even when it’s a couple of days late. A quick lighthearted exchange between Mayor Bill Finch and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy, visiting the city Friday for a jobs tour message, frames the critical impact of the Bridgeport vote in the hotly contested race between Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon as well as a reminder of the chaos of the 2010 gubernatorial election following a visit from Barack Obama and the voter mess that led to national headlines.
A McMahon video tracker captures the mayor and Murphy on the East Side in a friendly exchange about the need for a big turnout in Bridgeport, even if it’s a couple of days late.
“You can be guaranteed you’re going to get the vote,” Finch, laughing, responds.
Nov. 2, 2010 was a messy election affair mired in ballot shortages, substitute ballots, long lines, short tempers at polling places, a dozen precincts ordered by a state judge to remain open two extra hours, the mayor’s office issuing a reverse 911 urging angry voters back to the polls, election lawyers converging on the city, and a mountain of finger-pointing ugliness.
A few days prior, Barack Obama had filled the Webster Bank Arena principally to save freshman Congressman Jim Himes facing a tough reelection in a Republican year. Barack’s appearance juiced voter turnout, but election officials did not print enough ballots to accommodate the turnout. The mayor’s office, in fact, was pressed into action to copy ballots fed to city police officers for delivery to voting precincts.
Close to half of the 25 precincts had run out of ballots by early afternoon. Hundreds of voters walked away in disgust by the dozens, according to political operatives on the ground, and it might have been a lot higher before the polls closed at 8 p.m. How could this happen?
Black Rock School, the highest percentage turnout precinct in the city, ran out of ballots as well as at Winthrop and Blackham and Read. At Black Rock they replenished with the wrong ballots before the mistake was discovered, and apparently a dozen or so of the incorrect ballots (from another state assembly district) were scanned through the voting machine. A machine was temporarily shut down until elections officials could sort it out. So several city precincts were forced to use copies of ballots. Copies cannot be run through the scan reader. Thousands of ballots were set aside to be hand counted. Yikes!
With lawyers looking over the shoulders of election counters, the actual vote totals were not announced until three days later. The Bridgeport results were key for Himes and Dan Malloy who was elected governor. Following the madness of 2010, elections officials have printed one ballot for every registered voter in every election.
Yes indeed, when it comes to elections Bridgeport never disappoints. Mark your calendar for Nov. 6.