House Republicans Propose Election Integrity Reforms in Special Session

Posted on September 26, 2023


Majority party Democrats reject Republican amendments

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 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.

“Residents are troubled by recent events in Bridgeport, in which their confidence in our elections was eroded by an individual stuffing absentee ballots into an unattended drop box. As lawmakers, we need to do everything that we can to send a clear message that every individual vote counts,” State Rep. Dave Yaccarino said. “In a special session today, we offered what most Connecticut residents would consider common sense proposals, including a provision which would ensure that someone who commits a serious break of absentee ballot law will face time in prison. Unfortunately, the majority voted to uphold 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 absentee ballot drop boxes is a sensible provision that could dramatically strengthen the integrity of our voting process and give voters the confidence that their vote truly counts,” Rep. Yaccarino said. “While these were a useful stopgap during the height of a pandemic, they have become obsolete through Connecticut’s new vigorous early voting program.”

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.

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.

“Today was truly a missed opportunity to show Connecticut residents that we are preventing our election system from impropriety and protecting their individual vote,” Yaccarino said.