Watch | ‘Lawmakers consider changes to state election laws’ (NBC CT)

March 18, 2024


Article from NBC Connecticut:


Lawmakers are looking to make big changes to state election laws after a judge ordered Bridgeport to redo its vote for mayor.


Those changes include an oversight board that could, in some cases, run a municipality’s elections and require cities and towns to have cameras at all absentee ballot drop boxes.


“We wouldn’t even have had that court case without that drop box footage,” Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas told the Government Administration and Elections Committee during a public hearing Monday.


The proposals are a response to video that captured a Bridgeport city employee and Mayor Joe Ganim supporter stuffing absentee ballots into a drop box.


A judge ordered the city to have a second Democratic primary and another election, which Ganim won last month.


One bill would create an oversight committee to step in when towns have election issues. In many cases, the board could offer education and order training for election workers.


The entity would also have authority to take over a local election if a municipality has a history of election violations.


“We can’t say definitively, but I think it might be a cause for the board to look at a municipality with that kind of history,” Sen. Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) said about Bridgeport.


As written, the bill would allow the board to come up with parameters for when it takes action. That includes deciding the threshold before it decides to take over an entire election.


“In order to do that high tier, complete takeover of an election – that’s a pretty high standard and it has to involve multiple violations over time,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford).


Republican Rob Sampson says the bills don’t actually fix the problem, which starts with absentee ballot applications going to all voters. He says that opens the door to fraud. “Usually, you discover the fraudulent ballots long after the crime is committed and sometimes you never do,” he said.


Monday’s public hearing came just days after Thomas’s office made new referrals to election investigators, these stemming from February’s second election.


Those include voters saying they got absentee ballots without applying, claims from one campaign about cash offers for absentee ballots, and new video of suspicious activity around a drop box.


Lawmakers also want to speed up those elections. One bill would require the State Election Enforcement Commission to refer a case to prosecutors within 90 days of establishing probably cause that an election crime occurred.


The bill is a response to the fact that one 2019 complaint remains under investigation by prosecutors.


“I think voters in any municipalities should have confidence that whatever investigatory process is going to move forward that it be done and completed in a four-year period,” Flexer said.