Submitted by Jonathan Perloe, co-founder of Voter Choice Connecticut, the citizens’ group that advocates for Ranked Choice Voting
On Monday I brought an application to the Greenwich Town Clerk’s office to request an absentee ballot for the August 17 special election to fill the 36th district State Senate seat vacated by Alex Kasser. All voters are again afforded the opportunity to vote absentee as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
I was pleasantly surprised that ballots are already available, so I was able to cast my vote then and there. The entire process took less than five minutes. Due to the COVID-19 exception, I essentially enjoyed the benefits of no-excuse absentee and early in-person voting, conveniences that Connecticut voters will not experience again until 2024 and 2026 at the earliest, due to amendments that must be made to our state constitution.
Making voting easy is fundamental to a strong representative democracy. Alexis Gevanter, the Democratic candidate, favors expanding voter access to make it easier for citizens to participate in our democracy.
Ryan Fazio, the Republican candidate, calls early voting and universal voting by mail (aka, no-excuse absentee voting) “extreme solutions” that will “reduce the security of the ballot box” and “undermine our democratic process.” Like the former president and high-ranking Republicans across the nation, Fazio couches his opposition in the baseless claim that voting before Election Day increases fraud.
While mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting, it remains exceedingly rare. In Oregon, an early adopter of mail-in voting, only about one dozen cases of proven fraud have been documented over the nearly 20 years during which more than 100 million ballots have been mailed to voters. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit mail-in voting fraud (the National Weather Service calculates the annual odds of being struck by lightning at 1 in 1.2 million).
Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security declared the 2020 election the “most secure in American history.” In Connecticut, not a single instance of voter fraud was reported to the State Elections Enforcement Commission following the election.
Fazio’s believes that “Election day is still a sacred thing in this democracy, and having as many people vote safely on election day is a positive.” His views about voting are out of synch with voters’ preferences and national trends.
A Secure Democracy poll conducted by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill found that 73 percent of voters in Connecticut support no-excuse absentee voting, including a near-majority of 48 percent of Republicans. Early in-person voting—as I took advantage of this week—has even broader support, favored by 79 percent of voters overall, 69 percent of Republicans and even 68 percent of Trump voters.
Voter preferences are reflected in election statistics. Even before the pandemic, voting before election day was on the rise. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, in 2016, more than 55 million ballots—four out of every ten—were cast early or by mail. Last year in Connecticut, the first time ever that all voters were allowed to vote absentee, more than one-third did so. Apparently some 660,000 voters don’t agree with Ryan Fazio that Election Day is “sacred.” More likely it’s the election, not Election Day, that is sacred.
Voting rights are under attack across the nation; nearly 400 bills to restrict voting have been introduced, virtually all by Republican legislators. Connecticut is not immune to these anti-democratic efforts.
If you take advantage of the COVID-19 exception to vote absentee in this special election, just consider that not a single Republican State Senator voted for SB-901, the stand-alone bill to extend the exception into 2021. And not a single Republican Representative voted for SB-1202, the budget implementer that contained the final provision that, for this special election, allows you to walk into Town Hall and cast an in-person ballot from now until Election Day.
By his own words (“early and universal voting by mail is too extreme”), a vote for Ryan Fazio risks making it more difficult for you to vote.
Alexis Gevanter will work to make voting more accessible, while ensuring that elections remain secure. That’s just one reason why I used my no-excuse absentee ballot to cast my vote for her, and suggest you do, too.
The author is a co-founder of Voter Choice Connecticut, the citizens’ group that advocates for Ranked Choice Voting.
Timeline for submitting letters to the editor for Aug 17 special election:
• Accept letter to the editor submissions for consideration beginning July 22.
• Deadline to submit is Aug 10 (one week before election)