The Secretary of State, Susan Bysiewicz, honored Connecticut poll workers and moderators throughout Connecticut with the Secretary of State's 2006/2007 Public Service Awards recently.

During ceremonies held in several locations, Bysiewicz bestowed the Public Service Awards on all election workers who had given five or more years of service at the polls. Bysiewicz commended the recipients, saying, "You stepped forward so that everyone in our country has an opportunity to vote."

The Public Service Awards, a program that has been in effect for seven years, are given in recognition of individuals who volunteer their services to their communities for little or no compensation.

The Secretary of State's Office chose to give the awards this year to the many dedicated poll workers in Connecticut who "help keep our democracy alive."

Local election workers received this honor on Jan 12 at Quinnipiac University. Workers from Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge attended the ceremony to receive their awards. Among the attendees were Sandy Harrison and Richard Asprelli from Woodbridge.

Harrison, who has participated at the polls for eight years, was surprised, but pleased by the award. "I appreciate the recognition," she said.

Harrison added, "Although it is long hours, the registrars have put together a great team; it's fun to be there."

Bysiewicz said that there were over 500 honorees who received the awards at the Jan 12 ceremony. Many of the election workers had participated at the polls for much more than five years. In fact, one worker, Jean DeMarcella from Hamden, had been involved at her polling place for 52 years.

Vera Morrison, town clerk of Hamden and a speaker at the ceremony, expressed her appreciation for the service that these volunteers provide. She said, "You are the meat and potatoes of the election."

Bysiewicz extended special thanks to the election workers for the hard work in the last election year. In the summer, the state held a primary that had a record turnout of 43.3 percent. In addition, Bysiewicz said that more than 86,000 new voters registered to vote between May 1 and Oct 31.

The poll workers also met the challenge of dealing with new voting machines for the November election. Every polling place had a new telephone voting machine in place to accommodate voters with disabilities.

In addition, 25 towns chose to use the new optical scanners for the November election. Implementation of this new technology required extra care and time on the part of the poll workers. The diligence of the poll workers in learning about the new voting machines helped tremendously in the November election. Bysiewicz said, "You did a great job. Everything went very smoothly."

Over the next year, the rest of the towns in Connecticut will also be incorporating the optical scanners to replace the old lever machines.

With this in mind, the Secretary of State's Office had set up an optical scanner demonstration in a separate room. The attendees were invited to evaluate the new equipment following the ceremony.

The poll workers will be instrumental in making this new technology accessible to the voters.

The Honorable Edward Meyer, a state senator in the 3rd Congressional District and a speaker at the ceremony, said to the honorees, "You will have a new responsibility."

"You service is what our country is all about."