Sen. Harding: CT Dems refuse to do what needs to be done to deter election fraud.

April 2, 2024

Bridgeport absentee ballot case sparks reform bid

Waterbury Republican-American

Allegations of absentee ballot box stuffing in Bridgeport are coloring the renewed debate on absentee voting reforms at the state Capitol.

House and Senate Republicans invoked the Bridgeport controversy on Monday to bolster the case for a series of election security measures that the GOP minority has previously proposed and the Democratic majority has consistently rejected.

“We’ve been arguing about this issue for years, and we constantly hear that there is no voter fraud going on in Connecticut,” said Rep. Gale L. Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, the ranking House Republican on the Government Administration and Elections Committee. “Well, obviously, as we have seen in Bridgeport, it does happen in Bridgeport, and possibly many other towns, as well.”

The Republican news conference Monday followed votes last week in the Democratic led Government Administration and Elections Committee to reject all but one of the outlined Republican proposals when they were offered for votes then.

“A number of the measures proposed at this news conference we have heard before and they have been overwhelmingly rejected before because they would impede people’s access to the ballot without increasing security in any reasonably anticipated way,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, the committee’s House chairman.

The House and Senate Republicans presented a fivepoint plan that proposed the following:

■ Prohibit the unsolicited mailing of absentee ballot applications.

■ Mandate voter rolls be updated and audited every year.

■ Require voters submit a copy of a photo ID with returned absentee ballots; direct free photo IDs be provided to any voter unable to afford one; and have public libraries provide free photocopies, reimbursable by the state.

■ Impose a one-year mandatory prison sentence for convictions for election fraud, including absentee ballot fraud.

■ Temporarily suspend the use of absentee ballot drop boxes while additional safeguards are investigated.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee voted 13-6 to advance a Republican bill to mandate a minimum 12-month sentence for election fraud convictions. Blumenthal said he was unsure if this GOP bill will get called for House and Senate votes. The State Elections Enforcement Commission supported the legislation.

Despite the election fraud bill’s uncertain prospects and the defeats in other committee votes last week, Republican legislators pledged Monday to bring back the GOP proposals as amendments in House and Senate debates on election bills.

“Democrats repeatedly voted against election integrity policies in committee. The ballot stuffing will continue. The voter fraud will continue. Why? Because the current system works for the majority party,” said Sen. Robert C. Sampson, R-Wolcott, the ranking Senate member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.

Republicans pointed to the absentee ballot controversy in Bridgeport’s mayor election to support their arguments that more needs to be done to secure Connecticut elections, and that Democrats refuse to do what needs to be done to deter election fraud.

“We had somebody just this past September blatantly caught on video violating the election law,” said Senate Minority Leader Stephen G. Harding, R-Brookfield.

A state judge ordered a new Democratic mayoral primary and general election because of what he called the mishandling of absentee ballots in the September primary based on surveillance video that captured supporters of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim dropping stacks of ballots into outdoor collection boxes.

There was one point of bipartisan agreement Monday on Bridgeport — the alleged irregularities involving absentee ballots likely would have gone undetected and uninvestigated had Ganim’s primary opponent not leaked video footage from city surveillance cameras of the apparent drop box stuffing.

Sampson and Mastrofrancesco said Democrats advanced two election bills last week that do propose some steps in the right direction, but still fall far short.

One of the bills proposes to require video surveillance of absentee drop boxes and make camera footage publicly available, place limits on number absentee ballot applications that can be issued and circulated, list the election year on absentee ballot applications, and direct absentee ballots be tracked in the state’s centralized voter registration system.

“There are a few good provisions in this bill, but they are around the edges,” Sampson said.

A second bill would establish a 17-member Municipal Election Accountability Board that would be responsible for receiving referrals regarding potential election administration violations, determining if intervention is necessary, and classifying the level of oversight that is needed and monitoring the any voter unable to afford one; and have public libraries provide free photocopies, reimbursable by the state.