christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says voter intimidation won’t be tolerated at the polls and she doesn’t believe it’s happening.

“I feel that Connecticut is one of the states that would not tolerate voter-intimidating behavior at the polling places and like to say we’ve never seen this in Connecticut,” Merrill said.

At a state Capitol press conference Thursday she said they were addressing the issue because of there have been discussions nationally of allegations of voter intimidation, but Merrill was unable to point to any specific examples in Connecticut.

“We have never seen this activity in Connecticut and I am very much hoping we don’t see it this year. This is not standard behavior in our state,” Merrill added.

However, Attorney General William Tong, who joined Merrill and Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor at the press conference, said voter suppression is happening.

christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
“To raise the specter of voter intimidation is suppression and it’s happening right now and it’s happening in Connecticut,” Tong said.

Asked what he was referring to, a spokeswoman for Tong said he was referencing a lawsuit filed by Republican candidates for Congress in July challenging Merrill’s ability to send out absentee ballots.

Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano said he was surprised by Tong’s comments.

“In our nation every person has a legal right to challenge an issue and have their disagreements and perspectives heard by an objective body,” Fasano said. “It is completely inappropriate for an attorney general to suggest that someone raising concerns about our voting system or pursuing a lawsuit has hostile motives just because their concerns conflict with his own partisan standpoint.”

Connecticut has laws to protect voters from intimidation.

“I want everyone in our state to understand and know that this election is going to be fair, it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be transparent, and it’s going to be accurate,” Tong said during the press conference. 

Lawlor says intimidation is a crime and law enforcement is ready to enforce Connecticut’s laws.

“Anyone who intends to engage in illegal activity, intimidating at the polls or negatively impacting people’s right to vote will be prosecuted should arrests be made,” Lawlor said.

There are a number of individuals who are allowed into polling places, including unofficial checkers who must be approved by the registrar of voters the Sunday before the election.

“Elections are a local matter. The moderators are in control of every polling place on that day of elections and the registrars of voters are the ones that organize and hire people for Election Day,” Merrill said.

She says the registrars must approve everyone in the polling place in advance of the election.

Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said calling for volunteers to be unofficial checkers is something they do every Election Day.

“We have unofficial checkers. It has to do with turnout operations. This is something that Democrats and Republicans do,” Romano said.

Asked if he expects voter intimidation at the polls: “There better not be. I won’t tolerate that. No one should.”