All across the country, state legislatures – including ours – are introducing bills that will, ostensibly, protect our democracy. But more than 100 of them, including two dozen here in Connecticut, would actually limit democratic participation in free elections.
Doubling down on the completely unfounded allegations of “widespread voter fraud,” the proponents of these bills would have voters believe their rights are being protected. In fact, if enacted, these legislative initiatives would do just the opposite and have a chilling effect on voter participation. These unconscionable efforts to limit voters’ access come on the heels of the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, which was fueled by Donald Trump’s pathological inability to admit he lost fair and square. January 6 brought to light just how fragile our democracy is, and it is insupportable that so many legislators would now try to limit – rather than expand – the voting rights of every American.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Connecticut is one of 28 states considering legislation aimed at restricting voters’ rights.
Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have introduced legislation to eliminate Election Day registration (SB 478); withdraw Connecticut from the National Popular Vote Compact (HB 5008); prohibit unsolicited absentee ballot applications (SB 795); force town clerks to count absentee ballots only on Election Day (SB 796); curtail the powers of the Secretary of the State (HB 5540); require elector photo IDs (HB 5874), and prevent cross-elected candidates from appearing twice on the ballot under the name of two different endorsing parties (SB 801). Many of these bills were introduced in both chambers.
Why point out that these are Republican bills? Because for all the Republicans’ talk of “unity,” and “law and order,” there is no better way to sow disunity and fraud than to undermine the integrity of the very elections they claim to want to preserve. Take, for example, their favorite bugaboo, absentee ballots. Why does the GOP hate them so? Because in political circles it’s widely thought that ABs favor Democratic candidates. (While this is not always the case, in the last general election, more than twice as many Biden voters used absentee ballots than Trump voters did.)
When so much business is conducted by mail, why should absentee ballots be seen as rife with fraud? Maybe the GOP fears expanded voting rights not because of alleged cheating, but because of policy. Who tends to vote by AB? Students, the elderly, working people who can’t get time off to go to the polls and, in this last election cycle, thousands of people who knew COVID-19 was not a hoax. In other words, absentee ballots are often used by people who embrace the Democratic party’s policies on health care, education and labor protections for working families.
Meanwhile, Connecticut Democrats have introduced dozens of bills to make voting easier, more accessible and more equitable. They range from online absentee ballot registration to a study of ranked choice voting.
Throughout history, February has been a busy month for voting procedures and reforms. The 15th Amendment, which ensured voting rights regardless of race, was enacted on Feb. 3, 1865. Subsequent Februaries saw other reforms: the 20th Amendment, which determined the timing of the inauguration (Feb. 6, 1933); the 22nd Amendment, limiting the president to two terms (Feb. 27, 1950); and the 25th Amendment, clarifying presidential succession (Feb. 10, 1967).
This February, doesn’t it make sense to continue reforms that protect our Democracy, give more people the right to vote, increase efficiency and expand safety? The only reason to limit people’s voting rights access is to stack the deck against your opponent by picking and choosing whose voice gets heard. That’s the real voter fraud.
State Rep. Christine Palm represents Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. She is a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee and has introduced a resolution to amend the state constitution to create unconditional absentee balloting.
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