Secretary of the State Denise Merrill filed paperwork Wednesday to run next year for a second term as the state’s top elections official. Merrill announced her re-election bid in a press release then spoke to reporters in the state Capitol press room.
“I suppose the only surprise would be if I weren’t running, right?” she joked.
Merrill said she intended to campaign on a record of reforming and modernizing the state’s election system. She said she will work to qualify for the state public campaign finance system.
“In just three short years, we have worked to shore up the integrity of our elections, modernize voting for all Connecticut citizens, and expand voting rights to increase participation in democracy. We have also greatly improved business services, better utilizing technology to improve responsiveness, efficiency and transparency,” she said.
Merrill touted election policy changes the state has adopted during her tenure. This year, she oversaw the first Election Day during which some Connecticut residents were permitted to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day. In January, the state will begin allowing online voter registration.
She also has advocated on behalf of a process which will have voters next year deciding whether to change the state constitution to allow early voting or “no-excuse” absentee voting as well as other election administrative changes.
Merrill said she will focus on her re-election and is counting on “good government” groups like the League of Women Voters and Common Cause to encourage voters to embrace the constitutional amendment.
“I’m hoping there will be a big push to support the constitutional amendment. I’m definitely supporting the idea of opening up our voting process but it won’t be my primary job,” she said. “I’m particularly relying on people like the League of Women Voters. They have classically been the people educating the public about these matters.”
Once people understand what they’re being asked to approve, Merrill said she believes they will support the constitutional change.
“I get the impression that the public is very positive on this. They want early voting. They see it in other states they hear about. They’re constantly calling our office and saying ‘Why can’t we have that?’” she said. “The answer is it’s really restricted by our state constitution.”
Merrill has formed an official campaign committee called “Merrill 2014.” Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo released a statement calling Merrill a “champion of modernizing our elections to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile electorate.”
Only one Republican, Peter Lumaj, has so far filed paperwork to run against Merrill next year. Lumaj is a Fairfield attorney who immigrated to U.S. from Albania. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. called Lumaj a strong candidate but said it is still early in the race and a number of prospective candidates have expressed interest in running for under-ticket positions.
“I’m confident that at the conclusion of our vetting and nominating process we will offer voters an outstanding Republican ticket from top to bottom,” he said.
Labriola urged voters to reject the constitutional amendment to allow changes to the voting system.
“We strongly support any measures to increase voter participation but we believe in the tradition that an election should be held on Election Day. Anything beyond this opens the door to abuse and election fraud,” he said.