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CT Secretary of the State weighs in on election reform bills targeting absentee ballots

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas
Office of the Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a number of election reforms to strengthen absentee ballot oversight and security.

The proposed reforms, which were discussed in a public hearing on Monday, come following a series of mayoral elections in Bridgeport marred by accusations of ballot fraud.

The accusations attracted national attention and resulted in a judge ordering a redo of the Democratic primary in the state’s biggest city. Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim eventually defeated challenger John Gomes.

But concerns over the integrity of the election remain, with Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas announcing Friday her office made multiple referrals to the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) surrounding possible violations in the city’s most recent mayoral-do over election last month.

Now, Thomas is supporting two bills to close loopholes in state law, to better monitor potential voting irregularities, even if they are relatively rare, as the Associated Press has reported.

“I want the people of Connecticut to know that overall, my confidence in Connecticut’s elections is very strong,” Thomas told members of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. “But like any system, it can always be tweaked to make it more efficient, more secure.”

One of the bills would mandate video surveillance at ballot boxes and limit replacement absentee ballots to only the applicant.

The other proposal would establish a 17-person group of local and state officials, and citizens, which could provide towns training or monitor elections when necessary.

State Sen. Robert Sampson, a Republican ranking member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said the proposal doesn’t go far enough to address absentee ballot security issues. Other top GOP lawmakers in the state have also voiced concerns over election integrity, and need for reform.

Last week’s batch of referrals to the SEEC details Bridgeport voters allegedly receiving absentee ballots even though they didn’t apply for one, and an unknown individual seen dropping multiple ballots in two drop boxes.

Thomas said the reforms would help to address election security, without curbing someone’s ability to vote.

“We are at risk, I think, of over-correcting and disenfranchising the vast majority of voters based on a few bad actors,” Thomas said.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.