In many states, it is not a big problem to vote with a vote that is not present. In Connecticut, getting one because you anticipate a long day at work on Election Day or feel uncomfortable participating in polls in the flu season requires you to lie. Criminals, technically.
A executive order was signed this week by Governor Ned Lamont to temporarily loosen Connecticut’s strict restrictions on the use of ballot papers that were not present during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only for the primary of August 11 and only if there were no vaccines at the time.
Whether to offer the same comfort in November depends on the General Assembly.
“I don’t know how the legislature did not do it for November. This is problem number one, number two, number three and number four, “said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, who wants a vote on July 4. “We must go in and choose.”
But the regulation and use of absentee ballots is a problem that has long puzzled Connecticut lawmakers, complicated by the unusual state constitution. Now, it is also an element of President Donald J. Trump’s re-election campaign, the nation’s tweeter-in-chief.
“Republicans must fight very hard when it comes to declaring a vote in the entire state,” the president tweeted in April. “Democrats are clamoring for it. The extraordinary potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, does not work well for Republicans.”
This is my problem number one, number two, number three and number four. “
The problem is a kind of Rorschach political test: Do you see this problem as one of the ballot access or ballot security? Democrats tend to say the first, though not all of them; The last Republican Party, although the Republican Party has supporters of the initial vote and the absence of an error of absence.
Lamont, a political outsider who came to power 16 months ago, said he did not understand why balloting was received in several Republican states, but became a subject in Connecticut about “some Republican rejection.”
The president, he said, was chosen by people who were absent.
The public health emergency that gave Lamont the authority to change laws and regulations will end on 9 September. But he supported lawmakers who passed a law that would extend absent voting rules until November.
“If we don’t have a vaccine available at the time, you still don’t want a 65-year-old out and have to choose,” said Lamont, who is 66 years old. “You still don’t want people with existing conditions to vote. I think it’s very important that they don’t give up their right to vote by only being able to queue at a few polling stations.”
The Connecticut Constitution says the General Assembly can legally provide the means to vote in cases of “absence from the city or town where they are inhabited or due to illness, or physical disability or because their religious teachings prohibit secular activity.”
The legislature interprets “sickness” narrowly in state law by expressly allowing voters to get an absentee ballot because of “his illness.”
Lamont’s executive order changed the law for a while treat disease more broadly. It said absent ballots could be obtained and used in August “if he cannot appear at the polling station during polling hours due to COVID-19 disease.”
Attempts to change the constitution by handing over control of absentee ballots to the legislature failed with slanted margins, and asking new questions on ballots was a two-year effort.
Ritter said he believes a part of the state’s constitutional boundaries on attendance for the vote itself is unconstitutional. There is no allowance for someone who works during polling hours to be absent, unless their work is in a community other than the community where they live and vote.
Senator Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said he agreed that modern life requires great access to absentee ballots.
“No absent executive election is something whose time has come,” Hwang said, but he believes the legislature must pursue constitutional amendments.
Concerns about potential fraud
Themis Klarides, Minority House Chair, R-Derby, said he felt comfortable with the governor’s order for August, especially with the prospect of a special session in June to change the rules for November.
“You can’t use health emergencies to try to push through policies,” he said. “It must be debated when the legislature returns for a full session, when there is a public hearing and full debate. It should not be jammed. “
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said, “We don’t know what the world will be like on August 11, especially in November. People say [COVID] will reappear, and maybe that happens. But this is a little earlier than that problem.
Like the president, Fasano spoke of potential fraud.
“People say the Republicans want to suppress the vote. No, we just want to make sure every vote is valid,” Fasano said. “Every illegal vote reduces the influence of the votes cast correctly.”
Trump clearly sees this problem as one that can help mobilize his headquarters.
He has wrongly accused Michigan officials of sending ballots to all voters. The state is one of several states, including blue Connecticut and at least four other states controlled by Republicans, who have sent or plan to send applications for ballots that are not present to every voter, not the actual ballots.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said Oregon voted exclusively through letters and had little fraud, but it happened in Connecticut. He is one of the legislators who sponsored a law that tightened the rules for voting that were absent after accusations of fraud in the 1986 primary for delegation to the Democratic governor’s convention.
Looney said legislative leaders talked about how to extend Lamont’s order to the November elections.
Anticipating the GOP opposition, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group targeted Republican senators with Facebook ads complaining that they asked some voters to choose between risking their health or giving up their right to vote.
“My father’s Republicans will never play this game,” said Tom Swan, CCAG’s executive director. “Jodi Rell will ensure that people can choose without risking their lives.”
Ask Marilyn Moore how she feels about absentee vote fraud. “
Advertising itself has become a problem.
Senator Heather Somers, R-Groton, accused his Democratic opponent Bob Statchen of sharing responsibility for CCAG advertisements targeting him. Statchen is currently serving as the National Guard regarding a pandemic and is legally banned from any political activity, let alone coordinating with independent groups.
“He wrongly attacked the man on active duty?” said Mike Farina, a Democratic campaign consultant whose clients included Stachen. “I think that is a lost problem for the Republicans. This is really a question of choosing between voting and public health. Voting should not endanger public health.”
Somers did not return calls for comments.
Liz Kurantowicz, a Republican campaign consultant, said the problem was less partisan than that expressed by some Democrats.
“I think it’s clear the Connecticut system is pleading for reform, both from the perspective of voter security and ensuring our system is responsive to instances of fraud, which we cannot deny,” said Kurantowicz, who suggested the GOP Parliament caucus in the 2018 campaign.
“Ask Marilyn Moore how she feels about absentee ballot fraud.”
Senator Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, had more votes in the main general election last year, only to lose based on votes cast by absentees. He said he suspected some of the ballots were “harvested” and illegally dumped.
His campaign writes to every voter who receives an absent ballot, a matter of public record. Some of the letters returned were not sent, but some of the voters were examined because they had been voted by people who were not present.
“The letters are back, and I still have an envelope,” Moore said.
His political friends generally support easier access, but Moore says he is worried about supporting it unless access is accompanied by closer monitoring.
The law of voting by federal mail
This month, Democratic House Congress approved a new coronavirus aid package, dubbed the HEROES Act, which will mandate all states to send all voters in case of an emergency. The bill, which only draws one GOP vote, will also require universal absent votes “without reason”, online voter registration and same day and broaden the initial vote, among other changes.
However, an ambitious bill will not be taken by the U.S. Senate. which is controlled by the Republican Party, and also no voting steps will be included in a compromise bill to combat the pandemic.
There are other Democratic bills that will form federal letters in the voting law, including the Natural Disasters and the Emergency Election Law supported by the Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal. The bill will mandate that voters in all states have 20 days of initial voting and there is no reason for voting by mail and ensure states begin processing (but not counting) votes cast during the initial ballot or by mail 14 days before the Election Day to avoid delays in counting votes on Election Day.
This bill will also give all voters the choice of online requests for absentee ballots. But, like the voting provisions in the HEROES Act, the Disaster and Natural Emergency Election Law and similar Democratic measures have a slim chance of becoming law because of the political polarization caused by the problem.
However, voters appear to be less polarized compared to the politicians they choose.
A recent POLITICO / Morning Consult poll shows that nearly three out of five voters across the country say they strongly or somewhat support federal laws that will mandate that states “give ballots to all voters for elections that occur during a pandemic coronavirus. ” Only about 25% of the voters surveyed said they were somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea.
However, support for ideas was divided along ideological lines in the poll. The majority of voters who registered or leaned on Democrats – 77% – returned the letter in the election. Republicans are more divided: 48% say they oppose and 42% say they support.
Trump said that broadening absentee ballots and balloting would hurt GOP candidates and “if you ever agree, you will never have a Republican elected in this country again.” But there is no widely accepted evidence that shows that an increase in turnout automatically benefits Democrats.
A new study by Stanford University of Counties in California, Utah, and Washington shows there is a 2% increase in the number of voters when voters have unlimited access to ballots and there is no clear partisan advantage for one political party when they turn to the general election . almost entirely by mail.
“Our paper has a clear takeaway: The claim that votes by letter is fundamentally favorable to one party over another seems excessive,” Stamford researchers said.
Meanwhile, in a recent article for FiveThirtyEight, political scientist Lee Drutman said balloting was more convenient for some voters and more difficult for others, canceling each other out and “reducing partisan profits.”
“In addition, most non-voters do not participate, not because they are too uncomfortable to vote, but because voting is not a habit for them,” Drutman said.
The Office of the Secretary of State of Connecticut said that in 2016 and 2018, under the absent statute of limitations of Connecticut, the cities with the highest total absentee votes were Greenwich, Fairfield, Norwalk, Stamford, and West Hartford, and cities with a percentage of absences the highest ballots cast were Canaan, Roxbury, Salisbury, Sharon, Washington, Westport, and Weston.
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