Watch | Face the Facts: CT senator talks about early voting following presidential primaries

April 8, 2024

From NBC Connecticut:



Some state Republicans would like to see some changes when it comes to making our elections laws tougher.


NBC Connecticut’s Mike Hydeck spoke with Senator Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott).


Mike Hydeck: You, of course, are on the Government Administration and Election Committee. So this is something that’s in your purview. Let’s start with early voting. And I’d like to get the absentee voting, as well. First, four days of early voting in the primary, a dry run for November. What was your opinion on how it went?


Rob Sampson: I did hear some feedback, Mike, from people around the state. And I guess the one response that I heard most often was that it was very time consuming, that people ended up, you know, taking several minutes out of their day. And I’m concerned that when we have a lot more turnout, like we may have in the primary, and certainly in the general election, that it could end up being a situation where, you know, there’s long lines, that sort of thing. Other than that, there’s a few other unknowns that need to be resolved. I mean, certainly the funding for some of the larger municipalities. I mean, the Democrats created this, you know, early voting scenario, arguing that they needed to create more access for people. And that’s great, except for the fact that they did not really do anything to provide access, because they didn’t fund the ability for these towns to have more than one polling location. Take a big city like Bridgeport, I think they have, you know, 25 or 30 polling locations normally, well, they’ve got one for early voting, and that may change with some money, but so far we’ve got none.


Mike Hydeck: And the Secretary of the State has been asking for money from the get go. So it’s gonna have to kind of meter itself out, I guess. So let’s look ahead to the general election coming up in November. 14 days there of the same situation where you can vote early. Your opinion on that? General election is much bigger. It’s a presidential year, so that’s going to put a little bit more strain on the polls. What’s your vibe on how that’s gonna go?


Rob Sampson: Right. I’ve never been opposed to early voting necessarily. I think 14 days, especially in our first go round is a lot. I think, initially, the Secretary of State even wanted to limit it to seven days. You know, as Republicans, we offered, I think, three days, within five days, at least to start off with, you know, so we can start to build on our ability to be able to do this efficiently and effectively. So, remains to be seen how it’s gonna work out. I’d like to see some funding go to the towns, because I don’t want to overwhelm the very hard working folks that take care of our elections as it is, I don’t want to discourage people from doing that job more than anything.


Mike Hydeck: Right. And we know that sometimes they face threats. Some of them are all retirees, and they might be fearful and other reasons why it’s hard to get poll workers to begin with. So we need to try to keep their job easier.


Rob Sampson: I mean, even beyond that, I mean, they’re exhausted. I talked to one register of voters, you know, who just worked this presidential primary. Four days with a day break in between, she said it was she said it was exhausting just by itself.


Mike Hydeck: And it’s gonna be a much bigger lift when it comes to the presidential election. Let’s see here, after the absentee ballot debacle in Bridgeport, where they had to have two primaries, two general elections, just to decide, you know, the mayor of the city. Security and trust in our elections was thrust both into the public discourse, but also in your lap as a legislator. Your committee is calling for stricter election laws, one of them included getting rid of the drop boxes. Discuss that and what is the motivation behind that?


Rob Sampson: Yeah, you know, so the Bridgeport debacle as you call it, I mean, was a big eye opener for a lot of people in the state. Not an eye opener for me, though, because this is something that I’ve been warning about for years. In fact, I’ve been, you know, debating and voting on this type of policy in the elections committee and in the Senate for a number of years, and always pointing out that our absentee ballot system, which I think is the problem in Connecticut. You know, our election system overall, I think is pretty tight. We keep our paper ballots, we use machines not connected to the internet, that kind of thing that a lot of people have been concerned about, you know, 2020, and all of that. But we do have an issue with absentee ballots and mail and voting. And, you know, this is something that used to be reserved for just a few people, you know, 1% of the population. You know, people that legitimately couldn’t vote for whatever reason. Now that we’ve expanded that into making virtually everyone in fact, you know, no excuse absentee voting will be on the ballot also. Once that happens, you’re talking about, you know, a huge numbers of people voting that way, and our system is just not ready for that.


Mike Hydeck: One of the concerns regarding Bridgeport is that party operatives can hand out a bunch of those absentee ballot applications, at the very least. Should that change as far as who can distribute them? Who can collect them? Do you think that’s good as we speak now? Or would you like to see that change?


Rob Sampson: Yeah, that’s one of the main changes I’d like to see. And we witnessed some of this. I think, you know, ballot harvesting has always been the issue.


Mike Hydeck: That’s happened before the drop boxes, though. Ballot harvesting has been an issue for a long time.


Rob Sampson: Well the drop boxes is just one mechanism to return the ballots after they’re done. And I don’t think it really matters to be honest with you. I mean, the Democrats are talking about cameras, putting cameras on ballot drop boxes, and you know, look, that’s fine. I don’t object to it. I don’t think it’s gonna solve anything. What needs to happen is we need to tighten up the mail in voting system period. We need to have an ID requirement. We need to clean up our voter rolls. And we also need to eliminate the unsolicited mailing of those applications because I think that’s the big problem, is now you have campaigns and maybe municipalities. I think the city of Hartford is actually talking about spending taxpayer money, millions of dollars, to mail out these voting applications or ballot applications. I don’t think that’s necessary. I’d like to keep the same rules in place, but make it so that individuals can ask. That way only the appropriate people are actually involved in the process. No one is having their vote restricted or anything like that. They still have the access, but we save on the expense and we save about the on the potential for fraud.