IT WAS UGLY, BUT IN THE END, THEY GOT IT RIGHT

NoteI’ll be appearing on NBC-CT (Channel 30) today at approx. 11:15 a.m. to talk about the latest development in the Connecticut gubernatorial race. Brad Drazen hosts.

It took photocopied ballots, three days, a lot of finger-pointing and hand-wringing, but in the end, the system worked. Not unlike the making of laws and sausage, it was ugly, but it worked. And despite a secretary of state who would probably rather just forget this whole election cycle, it worked.  I tried to make that point on FOX-CT’s Morning News.

Under the exceptional leadership of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, the city finally counted all the votes (with the exception of those cast in the extraordinary extra time ordered by a judge) and Dan Malloy is the new governor of Connecticut.

Make no mistake; there are still some questions that demand answers including the mind-numbing incompetence of the registrars of voters in Bridgeport who ordered only about 21,000 ballots printed for a city that has nearly 70,000 voters. I have a 10-year old nephew who could have seen that problem coming (then again, he is a Lego wizard).

Finch showed true leadership by taking action once it appeared voters in the city might be disenfranchised. By design, the election process in any city or town is insulated from its chief elected officials—a sort of firewall to keep out any undue influence. After all, the registrars of voters in Connecticut are elected officials as well. In fact, one of Bridgeport’s was re-elected Tuesday. So Finch had no role in the process gone awry. But once the wheels came off, he stepped up, did everything possible to make sure everyone could vote and that all the votes were counted. He then appointed a three-member commission to officially find out what went wrong.

It is unfair to criticize those counting the ballots by hand in Bridgeport. They were only trying to remedy the problem. Some were there for the better part of the three days.

Meanwhile Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz would probably like to take a mulligan for the entire 2010 election cycle. It started badly and got progressively worse for Bysiewicz. She was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor when she decided to switch to the race for attorney general. Republicans took her to court, questioning her qualifications. She won in court. She lost on appeal and was knocked off the ballot.

Having only her duties and secretary of state to deal with, she fumbled badly; first, by saying she advised polls workers they had the discretion to weed out voters wearing wrestling paraphernalia because it could be considered a violation of the 75-foot “no campaign” buffer because the apparel is so closely tied to US Senate candidate Linda McMahon. McMahon’s P.T. Barnum of a husband, Vince, pounced and turned it into a public relations extravaganza (if anyone really wants the WWE stuff he sent me, they can have it).

Finally, Bysiewicz erred badly when she declared Malloy the winner of the governor’s race based on “unofficial” numbers. One could speculate she was under pressure to make such a call. But being nagged by the campaigns and the press is no excuse for making a premature call.

The hope here is that we have not seen the last of Bysiewicz in public service. She is an excellent, tireless, if overly ambitious, public service.

The further hope here is that Tom Foley, a man of character, and state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, also effective in his job, don’t drag this whole mess out any longer with frivolous or nuisance legal action. That might be wishful thinking.