With nearly as many voters its rolls as ever before, Bristol may see busier polling places than it has in decades.
But election officials, who have been figuring out how to deal with the crush for months, anticipate few problems at the polls Tuesday.
“We spent a lot of time planning for this,” said Bob Badal, the Democratic registrar.
There are 34,708 registered voters this year in Bristol, more than 84 percent of them Democrats or independents. Republicans trail badly.
Still, city GOP chairman T.J. Barnes said that his party has the potential to do well in Bristol this year, with its emphasis on keeping state Rep. Bill Hamzy in office and getting newcomer Jill Fitzgerald to join him.
Voters will get the last word on a number of political contests, from the presidential slugfest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain on down to uncontested local races.
They’ll also decide whether to change Bristol’s charter to create a chief operating officer as well as four non-controversial charter change questions. There’s also a hotly debated state issue on the ballot about whether to require a constitutional convention.
The 1st District congressional race features U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat, and two long-shots, Republican Joe Visconti of West Hartford and Green Party champion Stephen Fournier of Hartford.
The most watched race among Bristol’s political insiders is in 77th District.
Fitzgerald is locked in what appears to be a tight race there against Democrat Chris Wright in northeastern Bristol. The two are vying to succeed state Rep. Ron Burns, a Republican who opted not to seek re-election after a single term in Hartford.
Hamzy is scrambling to fend off Democrat Jacqui Denski in the 78th District, which includes Chippens Hill.
In the 79th District, state Rep. Frank Nicastro is facing a token challenger, Republican David L. Norton, who stepped in at the last minute to replace Derek Jerome, who apparently committed suicide last month to escape financial woes.
In the 22nd District, which includes fewer than 1,000 voters in the Forestville section of town, state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat, is facing a challenge from Republican Scott Saunders.
State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who has represented the 31st District since 1992, doesn’t have an opponent for the first time in his career. The district includes Plainville, Plymouth and part of Harwinton as well as Bristol.
To deal with the many voters expected to show up at the polls, Badal said there are going to be two check-in lines for voters at the precincts.
Moderators at each precinct have also worked up floor plans to speed people through as quickly as possible, Badal and Republican Registrar Ellie Klapatch said.
Klapatch said that it will help if voters are prepared to show identification at the check-in tables.
She also said that the machines and ballots are ready to go.
“Everything’s running smooth,” said Klapatch, who’s been supervising elections in Bristol since 1971.
The precincts with the most voters this year are 79A, 78A, 79B, 79C and 77A, the registrars said. All of them have more than 4,000 registered voters, Badal and Klapatch said, so voters there should give themselves some extra time.
The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Polling Places for the Election will be as follows:
Council District One
77A– Edgewood School – 345 Mix Street
77B – Northeast School - 530 Stevens Street
77C – Mountain View School – 71 Vera Road
Council District Two
78A – Chippens Hill Middle School – 551 Peacedale St.
78B – Clara T. O’Connell School – 120 Park Street
79A – South Side School – Tuttle Road
Council District Three
79B – American Legion – 22 Hooker Court
79C – Greene Hills School – 718 Pine Street
77D & 22 - Stafford School – 212 Louisiana Avenue
Note: An earlier version of this entry provided a bigger number for the registered voters tally because of an error at the registrars' office. It is now correct.
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