It has a weak case, but the city of Hartford wants out from under a federal court order issued in 1992 to stop discriminatory practices that keep a disproportionate number of Latino residents from exercising their right to vote.
Hartford's registrars of voters have done enough to correct the problem, the city claims in a motion for relief filed recently in U.S. District Court. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut says the city hasn't done enough, that a problem still exists and that the 1992 court order should stand.
The ACLUC, which under its former name of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union initiated a lawsuit that led to the court order, is right. Not enough has been done.
Hartford voters, especially Latino voters, still need the court's protection.
The city was sued in 1991 because it had improperly purged thousands of names, mostly Latino, from the registered voter lists without sufficient attempts to identify them.
In its order, the federal court told Hartford registrars to, among other things, hire more Spanish-speaking canvassers, cross-check addresses with other city and state agencies, and make more than one attempt to verify a voter's address before removing a name.
Hartford claims the court order is no longer needed because it maintains a list of inactive voters — something new. Those voters can be restored to the active list with the approval of registrars.
But the old discriminatory practices still occur in Hartford.
Some residents are still wrongly knocked off the voter lists because poll workers and registrars haven't done enough to correctly identify them.
Some voters are turned away at polling places — where checking should be done — on Election Day and sent to city hall to stand in line to prove they are who they say they are. Some have to wait in line so long that the polls close before they have a chance to vote.
This is wrong. Hartford has to do a better job of administering elections. The budget problems in the bloated registrars' offices — there are three top registrars where only one is needed — are no excuse for not sufficiently complying with the court order.
Ensuring that all eligible voters who want to vote can vote must be the top priority.