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Opinion: CT Must Reform Its Election System — Ben Proto

Published in the ctpost September 27, 2023

Last week, surveillance footage seemed to confirm what folks in Connecticut have known for years: Elections in our cities are broken, and we need to take serious action to re-establish election integrity in Connecticut.  As an attorney and chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, I have heard from voters and stakeholders — including many Democrats — who are very concerned at how bad Connecticut’s election integrity has become. They want to know what our elected officials are doing to fix this broken system. The recent news out of Bridgeport is a stark and disappointing confirmation of an open secret many of us have known for years.  Unfortunately, this has been the Democrats’ dirty little secret for years. We have seen Democratic operatives in our cities regularly charged with absentee ballot fraud, only to get a slap on the wrist and go out and do it again.

Today, after the recent Democrat mayoral primary in Bridgeport, video footage apparently showed the actual “stuffing of the ballot box” taking place, which, it is alleged, may have changed the outcome of the primary election. In Bridgeport, the Democratic primary is effectively the general election, and changing its outcome means you can decide who runs the city and its heavily funded political patronage.

Connecticut law is very clear: Anyone who uses a drop box to vote by absentee ballot can only drop off their own ballot. In certain cases, a voter can designate a family member or caregiver to deliver their ballot. That’s not what was apparently happening in this video.  Investigations have been opened into this troubling incident, but that isn’t enough. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It bears mentioning that Mayor Ganim spent seven years in prison after being convicted of racketeering and extortion before returning to the mayor’s office. Three of Mayor Ganim’s campaign workers from his last election, including the woman at the center of this scandal, have been referred to the Chief State’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution for alleged absentee ballot fraud. Elections in our cities are so badly broken that this kind of misconduct has become routine and expected. Take it from Democratic state Sen. Marilyn Moore, who saw her lead over Mayor Ganim evaporate overnight following similar absentee ballot antics four years ago. “I can’t say how many people predicted I would lose on the absentee ballots,” Moore said. “It’s just the way it is.”

We cannot accept this as the status quo — Connecticut voters deserve transparency and deserve to know that their votes will be properly cast and counted. Any amount of fraud is too much. Our elections are too sacred to cheat. People need to face serious consequences as a result of this latest scandal.

The Republican Party has developed an unprecedented infrastructure to identify, report and fight this kind of election mismanagement. This alleged long-term cheating in Bridgeport is the sad result of generations of entrenched, corrupt, far-left Democratic leadership. Prominent Democrats nationwide have shown a stunning disregard for basic, reasonable concerns about election integrity. Seeing it play out in Connecticut and in such stark terms is disappointing.  We should all have enough pride in our local democratic process to ensure that it isn’t being cheated by anyone who cares more about their party bosses than they do about the people’s voice. When a former Bridgeport state representative describes ballot stuffing as “an art form” in his own city, you know it’s time to raise the alarm.

It is time for Gov. Lamont, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, Attorney General William Tong, and the Democrats in Hartford to be more concerned about the people they represent than party politics. It is time to eliminate the drop boxes. They were instituted during the COVID pandemic to help voters adapt, but that time has passed. With the adoption of our new early voting system, the Democrats in Hartford have all but admitted drop boxes are no longer needed. If not eliminated, the legislature must adopt a requirement that all ballot boxes be under 24-hour video surveillance. It is ironic that Bridgeport, the home of alleged absentee ballot fraud, has video monitoring on all their ballot boxes.

The legislature should consider postage-paid return envelopes for the return of AB ballots. In addition, tougher criminal sanctions — like jail time and real financial penalties — need to be adopted for anyone convicted of interfering with a voter’s right to cast a vote. If the person convicted of absentee ballot fraud is a government employee, they should forfeit their taxpayer-funded pension and benefits.

This election problem in Connecticut needs to be yanked out at the root and purged completely. Republicans understand that election integrity matters, and along with the Republican leadership in Hartford and with the RNC, I am monitoring this issue, watching the response of our state’s Democratic leaders, and keeping all our options open. Free, fair and transparent elections benefit us all — in Connecticut and nationwide.

Ben Proto is chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party.

Ballot scandal