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Voter ID, voter fraud take center stage in Connecticut Secretary of the State debate

Secretary of the State candidates (from left to right) Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday, October 18 at the University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater in West Hartford.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Secretary of the State candidates (from left to right) Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday, October 18 at the University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater in West Hartford.

False claims of fraud following the 2020 U.S. presidential election have eroded the confidence some voters have in America’s electoral process. The claims also put the spotlight on the statewide office charged with running elections: Secretary of the State.

In June, Connecticut’s Secretary of the State, Democrat Denise Merrill, resigned her position to care for her ailing husband. That leaves the seat up for grabs this November.

In August, Democrats nominated State Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk to fill the position. The Republican Party nominated Dominic Rapini.

In a Tuesday night debate, the pair sparred on issues of voter fraud and voting rules.

Rapini said he believes fraud is undermining elections in Connecticut.

“There absolutely is a culture of fraud in our cities that we have to take care of,” Rapini said. “Because, when we don’t do that, people feel that their vote does not count.”

Thomas said cases of fraud in Connecticut are small when compared to the large numbers of people who vote. In 2020, Connecticut saw record turnout at the polls.

“You think about the 1.8 million voters who vote here in Connecticut – it’s what most people would call an acceptable risk. I think zero fraud is naive and unrealistic,” Thomas said.

A state judge recently found the former Stamford Democratic chief guilty in a voter fraud case tied to the 2015 election. 

But nationally, a review of the 2020 election found cases of voter fraud to be virtually non-existent in six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump.

Secretary of the State candidates (from left to right) Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at the University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater in West Hartford.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Republican Dominic Rapini makes his closing remarks during the debate with Democrat Stephanie Thomas at the University of Hartford Lincoln Theater Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

On early voting in Connecticut

Candidates also discussed next month’s ballot measure in which voters will decide whether to allow early voting in Connecticut – most states across the U.S. allow voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day.

Thomas is in favor of early voting, saying it would allow voters flexibility and encourage more people to turn out. Rapini doesn’t think early voting is right for Connecticut, saying voter turnout is already high; he’s also concerned about the cost of staffing the polling places additional days.

On presenting photo ID to vote

Rapini says he thinks voters should provide photo identification if they want to cast a ballot in Connecticut.

“Voter ID – and particularly government ID – is fundamental to our democracy, is fundamental to people functioning in society,” Rapini said. “I think the thought of us not having voter ID is ludicrous.”

Secretary of the State candidates (from left to right) Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at the University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater in West Hartford.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Secretary of the State candidates (from left to right) Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at the University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater in West Hartford.

Thomas says most voters already show photo identification to vote. She says mandating government ID is “a solution very much in search of a problem.”

“The incidents of people showing up at the polls – trying to impersonate someone else?” she said. “Honestly, we should be so lucky. With 30 to 40 percent turnout in municipal elections, it’s just not the problem that exists.”

Currently, Connecticut law does not require voters to present a photo ID to cast a ballot.

In lieu of presenting ID, people can, in most cases, sign an affidavit when poll workers ask for ID.

A voter’s identification does not need to be a driver’s license. It also does not need to have a photo. Here is a detailed list of Connecticut’s in-person voter ID requirements.

About the candidates

Thomas is a first-term state representative serving the the towns of Norwalk, Wilton, and Westport. She is vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee and serves on the Commerce and Transportation Committees. She works as a strategy and fundraising consultant to nonprofit organizations.

Rapini is a resident of New Haven County and a graduate of Trinity College. He has coached Pop Warner football and works in Apple, Inc.’s consumer electronics division. In 2018, Rapini ran unsuccessfully in the GOP’s primary for U.S. Senate. He lost to Matthew Corey, who was later defeated by incumbent Democrat Chris Murphy in the general election.

Connecticut Public Radio’s Eric Aasen contributed to this report.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.