‘CT is a laughing stock.’ Republicans call for new ballot fraud commission after Bridgeport arrests

Top Republicans said the state isn’t doing enough to prevent abuse from happening again.

John Craven

Jun 20, 2024, 9:34 PM

Updated 31 days ago

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Saying four election fraud arrests have made Connecticut a national “laughing stock,” Republican leaders called for a bipartisan commission to overhaul absentee ballot laws on Thursday.
But the idea is getting a frosty reception from Gov. Ned Lamont and other Democrats, who insist lawmakers are already addressing the issue.
“TRULY EMBARASSING”
First, there were the ballot stuffing videos that led to a do-over election in Bridgeport. Then, the four arrests this month for ballot fraud and witness tampering.
“It is truly embarrassing for our state,” Connecticut Senate GOP leader Stephen Harding (R-Brookfield) said at a Thursday morning news conference. “We’ve made national news once again.”
Top Republicans said the state isn’t doing enough to prevent abuse from happening again.
“Connecticut is a laughing stock nationally,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the House minority leader. “We continue to be in the news because of what we’re seeing out of Bridgeport.”
All four suspects – including the vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic party – will appear in court on Monday.
BIPARTISAN COMMISSION?
GOP leaders called on Lamont to form a new bipartisan commission to overhaul absentee ballot laws. In particular, they want to get rid of drop boxes, require an electronic signature match for ballots and ban campaigns from distributing ballot applications. In Bridgeport, most complaints involve campaign operatives distributing absentee ballot applications, then pressuring or threatening voters when their ballot arrives.
“Today, there are thousands and thousands of these applications being submitted – on both sides – and that is definitely opening the door to a lot of fraud,” said state Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-Wolcott), the top House Republican on the General Assembly’s elections committee.
Lamont said he would “look into” a new commission, but isn’t sure it’s needed. He just signed a new law that restricts how many ballot applications campaigns can sign out, expands what is considered an election crime and speeds up criminal investigations.
The Bridgeport arrests came after a five-year probe.
“They did a lot in the last session,” Lamont told reporters. “The most important thing they did is holding people accountable on a timely basis. [State Elections Enforcement Commission] now has 90 days – 90 days – to make a referral.”
The new law also places a security camera on every ballot drop box in the state.
“I like the cameras,” said Lamont. “I like being able to trace the absentee ballots.”
But Republicans said the cameras will do little.
“We get to record the ballot harvesting of people in the dark of night stuffing these ballot boxes, but we did nothing to prevent that activity from actually happening in the first place,” Candelora said.
DISENFRANCHISING VOTERS?
Democrats said the GOP proposals will simply make it harder for people to vote.
“The crux of American democracy is access to the ballot box,” Senate Democratic leaders said in a statement. “Republican attempts to restrict Connecticut residents’ ability to exercise their right to vote is no surprise from a political party that tried to overturn a presidential election and passes draconian voter restrictions at the state level across the country."
The elections committee co-chair agreed.
“A lot of the ideas that we’ve heard from the other side of the aisle on these issues, we’ve heard many times before,” said state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford). “And either they do nothing to prevent the situation that we’re looking at here … or they would deprive lots of individuals of ways they've become accustomed to depending on voting.”
Lawmakers actually considered a state takeover of Bridgeport elections. That idea is likely to come up again next year.


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