House Republicans Propose Election Integrity Reforms in Special Session

Posted on September 26, 2023


HARTFORD—House Republicans on Tuesday introduced several reforms aimed at bolstering security in Connecticut’s absentee ballot voting system including eliminating the use of ballot drop boxes, which were at the heart of recent fraud allegations in the Democrat mayoral primary in Bridgeport.

State lawmakers were in Hartford for a special legislative session, set in motion prior to the Bridgeport controversy, that focused largely on technical changes related to election issues. House Republicans say the timing was fortuitous given the public outrage over what’s alleged to have happened in the Park City, which is now the subject of an investigation by state election regulators and a lawsuit by a Democrat who is calling for a new primary contest.

“There’s no question that video of an individual stuffing absentee ballots into a drop box in Bridgeport has eroded the confidence that voters have in our electoral process, and it’s critical that we, as lawmakers who set the rules, do everything we can to eliminate avenues for people to game the system,” House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora said. “We offered what most Connecticut residents would consider common sense proposals—including a measure to ensure that someone who commits a serious breach of absentee ballot law is guaranteed to face time behind bars. Unfortunately, our Democrat colleagues today voted to protect the status-quo.”

Republicans introduced three amendments Tuesday they said would protect the integrity of Connecticut elections, including:

  • Eliminating statewide use of absentee ballot drop boxes, which were introduced in 2020 in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 (LCO 10321);
  • Requiring a mandatory minimum 1-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of a criminal election violation (LCO 10328);
  • Authorizing the designated elections monitor in Bridgeport to ban the use of absentee drop boxes in the city (LCO 10335);

“Eliminating the use of the drop boxes, in particular, should be the first step for anyone who is concerned about aspects of election integrity such as preserving the chain of custody for absentee ballots,” Candelora said. “We simply don’t need these boxes anymore, especially when you consider that early voting is a looming option for Connecticut residents.”

Over the last few years, Republicans have voiced concern about the integrity of the state’s electoral process. Various controversies related to the topic have shown the worry is justified, such as:

  • In 2015, former Bridgeport state Rep. Christina Ayala received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to election laws violations, including fabricating evidence related to her residence;
  • In August 2023, regulators recommended criminal charges for three individuals, driven by a media investigation into alleged absentee ballot violations during Bridgeport’s 2019 Democrat primary;
  • In 2022, a Democrat party official in Stamford was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to charges stemming from absentee ballot fraud;
  • In 2020, the Secretary of the State’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to every Connecticut resident caused confusion statewide as applications were sent to deceased individuals as well as households where voters no longer lived;
  • In 2021, controversy erupted in several Connecticut communities as campaign operatives, operating on guidance from the office of the SOTS, pre-filled information on absentee ballot applications—including a scanned signature of distributors—that were mailed to voters.

“This latest voting controversy came to light due to a video in Bridgeport, but how do we know that it is not happening in other cities and municipalities? These incidents bring the security of the ballot boxes into question, because if one box can be tampered with in this way, then others can as well. These boxes were put in place due to a rise in COVID cases, but that emergency has passed,” said Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, House Ranking Member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. “Today, we called for an immediate stop to the use of drop boxes until a secure system can be put in place to ensure the integrity of our elections, but, once again, the Democrat majority failed to join us in passing commonsense legislation. It is as if they do not care about clean elections.”

Democrats voted down (47-91) the amendment that would allow the Bridgeport elections monitor to ban the use of drop boxes there, and no vote was held on the other two Republican amendments because the Democrat majority opposed them on procedural grounds.

“No question about it, today represented a missed opportunity. We could’ve shown Connecticut residents that we’re serious about preventing nefarious behavior in elections, which as recent history has shown, can be decided as little as one vote,” Candelora said. “Instead, business-as-usual attitudes prevailed.”