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Connecticut Republicans call for strengthened absentee voting laws amid Bridgeport controversy

Molly Ingram

Alleged voter fraud in Bridgeport has raised questions from some members of the Connecticut Legislature about the safety of absentee ballots, to the dismay of some Democratic leaders and voting rights activists.

A video released by Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes shows a Joe Ganim supporter allegedly stuffing the absentee ballot box. Gomes was in the lead on election night until Ganim swept the absentee vote.

Senate Republican leader Kevin Kelly sais the legislature needs to amend voting laws to prevent things like that.

“We've always raised these concerns as Republicans,” Kelly said. “We've tried to amend laws over the past few years with regards to this and have always just been categorically dismissed. And now, with this video, we have actual proof.”

Kelly suggested bringing the ballot boxes inside of municipal buildings and strengthening penalties for bad actors.

“I think we need stiffer penalties for those who violate our election law when it comes to absentee ballots and make it an actual deterrent,” Kelly said. “So it wouldn't just be a slap on the wrist but something substantial and significant. So that when somebody thinks of even doing this conduct, they're like, ‘Nah, it's not worth it for a couple political votes.’”

But Cheri Quickmire, executive director of voting rights group Common Cause Connecticut, said bringing the ballot boxes inside can lower voter turnout. The Sept. 12 primary saw a statewide turnout of around 21%.

“In Vernon, they decided to have a little window on the side of the building that people could flip their ballot in, it was like a fast food window,” Qucikmire said. “And nobody was there to send out the tray. So people couldn't actually use it. It was a problem.”

Kelly said Republicans plan to take action as soon as next week, during the special legislative session.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.