Goldrick: Floren’s Proposed Bill Will Suppress the Vote

Opinion column submitted by Sean Goldrick, who served two terms as a Democratic member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation.  He lives in Riverside.

At the  “Election Matters: The State of Voting in 2016” forum at Greenwich Library last month, Michael Brandi, Executive Director, CT State Elections Enforcement Commission, stated, “I think the risk of in-person voter fraud is basically non-existent.”

I followed up with Brandi after the forum, asking him how many cases of in-person voter fraud are pending before the SEEC.  Answer: none.

I asked him how many cases of in-person voter fraud he had handled during his four and a half years heading the elections enforcement commission.  Answer: none.  I asked him how many individuals had been prosecuted or convicted of in-person voter fraud over the longer term.  Answer:  There has never been a single case of in-person voter fraud prosecuted in the state of Connecticut.  Ever.

So even though no one has ever been found guilty of in-person voter fraud, the type of voter fraud that government-issued photo ID’s are claimed to prevent, not only did Greenwich state representative Livvy Floren (R-149) introduce a bill requiring government photo ID’s and proof of citizenship in order to vote five years ago to “reduce” voter fraud, she is now doubling down by proposing a new voter suppression bill requiring voters to obtain government-issued photo ID’s.

On the same day the voter forum was held at Greenwich Library, the New York Times published an article quoting numerous Republican officials, past and present, admitting that they specifically designed photo ID legislation to prevent minorities from voting.  Among the Republican officials quoted was Todd Allbaugh, a staff aide to a Republican state legislator in Wisconsin, who recounted how in closed-door meetings where photo ID bills were discussed, Republican legislators “were giddy about the ramifications and literally singled out the prospects of suppressing minority and college voters.”

Federal and state courts are beginning to strike down those Republican voter suppression laws.  In North Carolina, a photo ID law passed by Republican legislators was struck down by a federal appeals court, which declared that the law, “targets African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”  In rejecting the voter suppression bill SB 14 in Texas, an appeals court found that African-Americans were nearly twice as likely as Whites not to possess the government-issued ID’s required to vote, and Hispanics were three times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites not to have the required ID’s. Poor residents were even less likely to have the required photo ID’s.

Livvy Floren justifies her new voter suppression bill by stating that voters would not be required to pay a fee to obtain the photo ID’s, which would be issued by municipalities and cities.  Instead, she proposes that the cost of issuing photo ID’s would be born by the state’s Citizens Election Program fund.  But eliminating the fee to obtain a government-issued photo ID free was the dodge used by the state of Texas when it amended SB 14 in an attempt to keep the law from being struck down.  In its finding against that law, the court declared that, though no fee was charged, forcing individuals to obtain the ID created a “burdensome alternative process” that inordinately impacted minorities and the poor.

The Washington Post editorial condemning the Texas voter suppression bill SB 14 is applicable to Connecticut.  To paraphrase the Post, Zombie-like, these voter suppression bills refuse to die, owing to the unembarrassed determination of Livvy Floren and other Republicans in Hartford intent on resurrecting Jim Crow-style obstacles to the ballot by any means they can finagle through the judiciary.

In every state in which the Republican Party has taken control of the legislature and governor’s office, the Republicans’ first order of business is passing voter suppression bills.  If the Republican Party takes control of Connecticut’s state government, you can bet that Livvy Floren and the new Republican majority will make a voter suppression bill one of the first they pass.  If that happens, Connecticut will see Jim Crow racism planted deeply in the soil of the Constitution State.

Sean Goldrick served two terms as a Democratic member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation.  He lives in Riverside.