Complex voting proposal in charter criticized

New London - Several residents expressed concern - or at least confusion - over a proposed system where voters would rank mayor candidates at a public hearing Tuesday night on proposed charter changes.

Registrar of Voters Bill Giesing said he was concerned that the rank voting plan - which would allow for instant results rather than a runoff election at a later date - as well as one that would have four city councilors represent specific wards, would violate state law.

"I just want to bring this to your attention," Giesing said. "I think this is something serious you should address." He said communities are prohibited by state statute from defining wards.

David Hayes, who lives on Ocean Avenue, called rank voting a "totally unacceptable" way to determine who will be the mayor.

"There's no point to it," Hayes said. "Why go to something like this? Most people don't understand it. Most people don't want it."

Charter Review Commission Chairman Robert Grills said rank voting would allow for the mayor to be selected by a majority of voters in the main election, when turnout is higher, than in runoff elections. It would also ensure that the winner would be the candidate supported by the majority of voters, not just the largest plurality, he said.

The meeting was supposed to start with an overview of the proposed changes, but the hearing began without a formal presentation because computer problems prevented Grills from loading a PowerPoint presentation.

"Most of you, it seems, have read most or all of the charter as we have put it forward," Grills said before moving directly into the public hearing.

Grills said he expected that the commission would have another meeting to address concerns from the public hearing before handing its draft over to City Clerk Michael Tranchida and the City Council, which may put charter revisions up for a vote by the November election.

"I don't think this should be rushed to the ballot in November," said Dorothy Mansfield, another Ocean Avenue resident. "I'd rather see a fine, finished product with all the I's dotted and T's crossed."

One member of the commission, Minerva Dudley-Cook, said she hoped the charter review process would not be rushed toward a November vote and instead take the full 16 months it was given to consider changes to the city charter.

"I don't think we are where the chairman says we are," Dudley-Cook said. "I think we should take the full 16 months."

m.collette@theday.com

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