HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto said he was troubled to learned that Republican Bob Stefanowski’s campaign has asked some local registrars to appoint someone to challenge the identity of voters Tuesday, Nov. 6.
A so-called “challenger” could be appointed under Connecticut law to “challenge the right of any person offering to vote,” if they didn’t believe that a voter was eligible to vote.
Balletto said they believe Stefanowski’s campaign is “attempting to influence the decision-making of local election officials to challenge voters in a way that is unprecedented in our state.”
But his campaign said that’s not true.
“It’s standard operating procedure for any campaign,” Kendall Marr, a spokesman for Stefanowski, said Friday. “No different than what has always been done by both parties for campaigns all across the nation.”
But in his letter to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Balletto alleged that “it appears, irrefutably, to be a voter suppression tactic specifically designed to intimidate people and create delays, all while targeting citizens who already face huge hurdles when attempting to exercise their rights –particularly immigrants, lower-income residents, and voters of color.”
Marr said that’s absolutely not the intention of the campaign.
“Nobody is requesting anything that isn’t already Connecticut law,” Marr said.
Balletto said “it’s possible a ‘challenger’ in particular polling places could create long-delays, dragging out what should be a simple process of casting a ballot, and ultimately dissuading people from voting altogether.”
A spokesman for Merrill said “our office has already been advising Registrars of their rights and responsibilities under 9-232, as early as last week.”
Under Connecticut statute 9-232, no candidate or party can demand that a registrar of voter, appoint a challenger to a polling place. However, they can ask for a challenger to be assigned to a polling place and a local registrar can agree.
It’s unclear how many towns may have taken the Stefanowski campaign up on its suggestion or how many towns it has suggested hiring a challenger.
Balletto said in his letter to Merrill that “it is imperative that voters know that even in the event that they are challenged, and the moderator hearing the challenge decides against them, that voter still has the right to cast both a provisional and challenge ballot.”
The law also says that “Challenges shall not be made indiscriminately and may only be made if the challenger knows, suspects or reasonably believes such a person not to be qualified and entitled to vote.”
Balletto said requests for appointments of challengers might happen in other states, but is rare in Connecticut.
“Our right to participate in our own government, through our vote, is one of the foundational rights of our country,” Balletto said. “Any systematic attempt to illegally interfere with that right must be met with our most forceful resistance.”