State news

Connecticut may expand absentee ballot use for Nov. election

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers on Tuesday heard from voters who want to cast their ballots by absentee because they’re afraid of going to the polls in November during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as from those who say they’re more concerned that expanding eligibility might lead to fraud.

Merla Porter a retired teacher from West Haven, whose husband survived a life-threatening bacterial infection last summer, said she’s scared of possibly infecting him with the virus that causes COVID-19 if she has to vote at her polling place.

“Frankly, I absolutely fear what could happen this fall,” Porter told members of the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee during a virtual “listening session” on a bill that would expand eligibility for casting absentee ballots in just the November general election.

“While I feel blessed that we live in Connecticut, where the governor made the decision to close and quarantine, I don’t think this is over. Not here in the United States and not here in Connecticut,” she said. “I need to make a choice that protects my husband. I need to decide whether to vote in a voting booth or by absentee ballot.”

But Eric Belk of Marlborough said lawmakers shouldn’t risk it, arguing that fraud, by its nature, is difficult to detect.

“Vote by mail is a method that works well in theory, but never in practice,” he wrote in written testimony. “Fraud in vote-by-mail not only exists in theory; it is rampant in the real world.”

Meanwhile, a Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit filed by four Republican candidates who argued it’s illegal to expand the use of the absentee ballots in the upcoming primary. The decision came a day after Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Robinson dismissed it for technical reasons.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday, and the Senate on Tuesday, on a bill that aims to make COVID-19 an eligible excuse for requesting an absentee ballot. Current law restricts when people can vote by absentee ballot, limiting it to excuses such as being out of town on Election Day or being an active member of the military.

Lawmakers are also expected to vote on three other bills, including wide-ranging police reform legislation.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont already signed an executive order expanding eligibility for the upcoming Aug. 11 primary, but his authority is set to expire before Election Day. He is urging lawmakers to pass this legislation.


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