The Democratic and Republican candidates for Secretary of the State clashed Tuesday on the security of Connecticut’s election system, whether to ID voters at the polls and whether voter fraud is a problem.
The rescheduled debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and CPTV.
“Government ID is fundamental to our democracy. It’s fundamental to society,” Republican Dominic Rapini said. “The thought of us not having voter ID is ludicrous.”
Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk, who is the Democratic candidate, said most people already show their driver’s license to vote.
“I think mandating voter ID is very much a solution in search of a problem,” Thomas said.
She said very few, if any, voters show up at the polls trying to impersonate someone else.
Rapini said that as secretary of the state it would be his job to make sure the election is “secure, safe and accessible.”
He alleged that 70% of Americans want voter ID.
They also clashed over whether early voting is necessary. Thomas supports the idea, which will be a question on the ballot in November seeking to amend the state constitution to allow early voting.
If approved by voters, the question would clear the way for the state legislature to pass a law joining Connecticut with 46 other states which permit some form of in-person voting ahead of Election Day. At the moment, the only other states without early voting are Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Rapini has argued against the policy, in part due to the potential cost to municipalities that would be required to staff voting venues for a longer period of time. Rapini said those added expenses could cost towns millions, depending on the period of early voting permitted in the eventual law adopted by the legislature.
Rapini said it creates an opportunity for more fraud.
“I want to get political campaigns out of the business of handing out absentee ballots,” Rapini said. “And leave that responsibility up to the voters where it belongs.”
Thomas alleged that Rapini’s tweets “taking a germ of truth and stretching it,” is part of the problem regarding misinformation in the electoral process. “That’s a real threat,” she said.
Thomas said there has to be an investment in voting infrastructure, but that it has nothing to do with the fraud that Rapini insists exists in the system.
“Our system has always had fraud. There’s no such thing as a no-fraud system,” Thomas said. “I think zero fraud is unrealistic.”
Rapini countered “then I’m glad you don’t work for a bank.” He said there’s a “zero-tolerance policy” there, and “it should be true of our elections.”
He said there is no “acceptable level of fraud.”
Thomas said all of the complaints that Rapini brought to state election regulators as the former board chairman of a nonprofit called Fight Voter Fraud Inc. were found to be without merit.
“There you go again deflecting,” Rapini said. “I have always asked questions about our elections.”
He said it’s not about fraud, it’s about fixing the system.
Asked if she wanted to comment, Thomas said simply “alternative facts.”
At one point during the debate, Rapini remarked about the absence of Cynthia Jennings, a third party candidate running for secretary of the state, and compared her candidacy to that of Thomas’.
“If you like Representative Thomas you’ll probably like Cynthia Jennings too. You should take a look,” Rapini said.
Thomas replied: “I find that a little insulting since she’s an African-American woman. I’m not sure what else we have in common.”