GOP blames Lamont for Absentee voting snafu [Rep-Am]

July 18, 2022

Article as it appears in the Republican-American:


HARTFORD — Republicans are blaming Gov. Ned Lamont for the secretary of the state’s office suspending supervised absentee voting in nursing homes due to COVID-19 concerns.


Lamont issued a declaration of a public health emergency so Connecticut could continue receiving certain federal pandemic assistance, but nowhere in the document does the governor specifically authorize suspension of supervised voting in nursing homes.


The Office of the Secretary of the State informed state legislators in a two-page notice dated July 14 that supervised absentee voting in nursing homes for the Aug. 9 primary elections.


State law authorizes the suspension of supervised absentee voting in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during declared public health or civil preparedness emergencies.


The governor’s office denied any involvement in the decision. Under the state Constitution and state law, election administration is the purview of the secretary of the state’s office, said Max Reiss, Lamont’s director of communications.


Republicans are point fingers at Lamont because he issued the emergency declaration and he also appointed former Assistant Attorney General Mark F. Kohler to replace Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill following her resignation.


State Sen. Robert C. Sampson, R-16th District, and state Rep. Gale L. Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, the ranking Repubican members of the Government Administration and Election Committee, slammed Lamont in a joint statement with House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, and Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly.


The four GOP leaders said Lamont’s handpicked appointee used the governor’s emergency declaration to suspend state rules regarding absentee balloting for nursing home residents.


They said the decision undercuts Lamont’s public assurances that he was only declaring a public health emergency so Connecticut could continue to receive federal coronavirus relief funding for food assistance and housing homeless people displaced by the pandemic.


“Today, we see that was completely false,” the joint statement said.


Dominic Rapini, the endorsed Republican candidate for secretary of the state, also blasted Lamont over the directive from the secretary of the state’s office.


“How we conduct our elections matters. We have supervised absentee voting for a reason,” he said. “The suspension compromises the integrity of the vote and opens the door for fraud and abuse.”


During supervised absentee voting sessions, the local registrars of voters or their designees from the same political parties deliver the ballots to the facility and jointly supervise voters while they fill them out.


State law mandates registrars must supervise absentee voting sessions at long-term care facilities where 20 or more requests for absentee ballots are made. Otherwise, sessions are optional.


The secretary of the state’s office advised the Government Administration and Elections Committee that supervised absentee voting would be suspended for the August primaries because nursing homes and other long-term care facility remain on high alert and continue to experience COVID-19 infections.


The July 14 advisory cited figures from the state Department of Public Health that were 152 coronavirus-related infections and two deaths for the week ending July 7.


Previously, Lamont had issued emergency orders in 2020 and 2021 that authorized the secretary of the state to waive any requirements under the supervised absentee voting law provided, among other things, the secretary has notified town clerks and registrars of voters.