- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - As candidates and political parties worked to boost voter turnout for Tuesday’s election, state and federal officials said staff and volunteers will be watching to make sure voting runs smoothly.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday it will send employees from its Civil Rights Division to monitor polls in seven Connecticut cities and towns on Tuesday. The list includes East Hartford, Farmington, Hartford, Middletown, New Britain, Newington and West Hartford.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she believes the Justice Department is sending staff to ensure the polls are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and federal election reform enacted after the 2000 presidential election, the Help America Vote Act. She said her office welcomes the department’s presence.

“We have a shared commitment to ensuring voters’ rights are respected and protected,” Merrill said.

Her office has been working with the Justice Department to acquire new ballot-marking devices for adults with disabilities. These devices, which will be made available on Election Day, are stand-alone, tablet-based systems that will replace the previous phone-fax technology.

Turnout is expected to be high, considering a record number of people have registered to vote.

Democrats and Republicans spent the final hours before the election manning the phones and knocking on doors, encouraging people to go the polls. In a state where there is no early voting, with the exception of absentee ballots, getting out the vote is crucial.

“We’ve got a massive statewide operation,” said Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democrats, adding how these final few days mark the culmination of a 10-month effort to reach out to voters.

State Democrats hope to make 1million calls during the final get-out-the-vote effort, which began Friday. Phone banking operations were set up Monday in 18 local Democratic headquarters across Connecticut. Besides the hotly contested presidential election, the state’s five U.S. House of Representatives seats, one U.S. Senate seat and the entire General Assembly are on the ballot.

JR Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republicans, said the GOP also was busy making calls to voters Monday. While Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is expected to win in Connecticut, Romano said people shouldn’t discount Republican Donald Trump’s popularity in the state, which he said should help other state Republican candidates.

“There’s more participation on the Republican side than we’ve had in history. You talk to local registrars, and people are coming in and saying, ‘How do I vote for Donald Trump,’” he said. “I predict it will be closer than people think.”

Both parties said they plan to have volunteers at the ready to help people who face any issues at the polls.

Meanwhile, Merrill’s office and the State Elections Enforcement Commission are running a hotline that people can call to report any problems. They can call toll-free at 866-733-2463 or go to [email protected] The Connecticut Bar Association also will have 110 attorneys trained by the Secretary of the State’s Office to assist with any legal issues concerning voting.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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