HARTFORD, CT – Republican lawmakers loudly objected to the ballot boxes Secretary of the State Denise Merrill bought for every town in Connecticut, but only two voted not to expand voting by absentee ballot in the November election.
The House voted 144-2 in favor of a bill that allows anyone concerned about going to the polls on election day to vote by absentee ballot.
Reps. Whit Betts and Cara Pavalock-D’Amato of Bristol voted against the bill.
Republicans argued that they don’t want to suppress the vote in November.
“It’s not about voter suppression as I heard before,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said. “It really is about making sure every vote is counted.”
Candelora said the absentee ballot process isn’t as simple when you engage in it. He said many absentee ballots are filled out incorrectly when voters don’t have the ability to ask the town clerk questions.
Candelora said the absentee ballot boxes Merrill bought for every town are not secure. He said they can be tampered with or something like water could be poured inside.
He said that’s why the town of Wallingford moved the box inside town hall.
Merrill swiftly requested that the town should move the box back outside.
“Our office has grave concerns about your unwillingness to protect the health and safety of your voters by providing them with a safe and trusted method of contactless delivery of their absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates said in a letter to the town Monday.
Republicans sought to amend the bill Thursday to allow for some regulation of the boxes, but were unsuccessful.
“Does anyone else see the problem with these boxes?“ Rep. Gail Mastrofrancesco asked her colleagues during the debate.
Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he can’t think of anything more important than the right to vote.
He pointed out that all the things Republicans suggested should be part of the special session agenda “flow from having elections and sending people up here.”
He said there should be no concern about the absentee ballot boxes. He said people have done crazy things with mailboxes and these are no less secure.
“They’re not bomb shelters,” Ritter said.
He said a lot of things happen with mail too, but the mail arrives and the ballot counts.
“Don’t invent theories that this is different than a mailbox,” Ritter said.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, which is expected to take up the legislation on Tuesday.