jack kramer / ctnewsjunkie file photo

NEW BRITAIN, CT —Two Republican lawmakers, a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and a Republican candidate for state representative filed a lawsuit challenging Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s expanded definition of who can receive an absentee ballot.

In a May 6 memorandum Merrill broadened the definition of who qualifies for an absentee ballot, which according to the lawsuit, “unconstitutionally and erroneously expands the definition of ‘illness’.” The expansion of the definition would allow those who are at risk for contracting COVID-19 to stay at home and mail in their ballots.

The Republicans who filed the lawsuit Wednesday in New Britain Superior Court, Sen. Eric Berthel, Rep. Jason Perillo, Dominic Rapini and Linda Szynkowicz, say Merrill’s actions will “decrease public confidence in the election process and increase the election’s susceptibility to irregularities, from errors to fraud.”

They said the decision about whether to expand absentee ballots should be left up to the electorate and not Merrill.

Merrill disagrees.

In her memorandum, she determined “that any registered voter who has a pre-existing illness can vote by absentee ballot because that voter’s illness would prevent them from appearing at their designed polling place safely because of the COVID-19 virus.”

Merrill said the Republicans lawsuit will “force people with serious health conditions to come to a polling place in person, despite the CDC warning that their health conditions increase their risk of COVID-19. Voters with heart disease, asthma, or who are immunocompromised because of cancer treatment are at high risk and should have the option of voting safely by absentee ballot.”

Further, “It would force doctors, nurses, and EMTs, who have already been putting their lives at risk for our safety, to enter a polling place and interact with poll workers who will see hundreds of other people on Election Day. No voter or poll worker should be forced to potentially infect their friends and neighbors,” Merrill said. “This suit will make tens of thousands of my constituents unnecessarily vulnerable to COVID-19. It is wildly irresponsible and I intend to defend Connecticut’s voters’ right to vote to the full extent of the law.”

Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo also chimed in on the lawsuit.

“Is the Connecticut Republican Party so afraid of losing seats in the 2020 election that they would endanger the health of Connecticut voters? That is the message sent with the frivolous lawsuit against the Secretary of the State for expanding the use of mail-in ballots,” DiNardo said.

Gov. Ned Lamont has used his executive authority to allow for this type of absentee balloting for the Aug. 11 primary and is asking the General Assembly to extend that definition for the Nov. 3 general election.