The recent surprise announcement that Waterbury’s Town Clerk, Antoinette Spinelli and Mayor Neil M. O’Leary plan to mail up to 56,881 unsolicited absentee ballots is a risky and expensive solution that is in search of a problem. (Link)
The estimated cost of a first class mailing of this size is $40,000 to $60,000. A significant cost burden to tax payers for something that is already available for free. Last year we saw Denise Merrill spend $7 million on a similarly needless mass mailing project (More on that in my RealClear Politics ). The fact is that these ballot applications are available free of charge online or can be signed for at town hall. Ballot applications are available and easily accessible to all legal voters in Connecticut.
Last year we learned how inaccurate Connecticut’s voter rolls were when 8% of unsolicited ballotapplications, or an estimated 184,000 – 200,000 ballots were returned undeliverable. This suggests ballots were sent to people that were either dead, gone, or worse duplicate voters.This begs the question: what is the motivation to mail these applications when the evidence is so clear that the voter rolls are inaccurate? And this includes Waterbury.
For Waterbury the number is estimated to range from 4,000 to 5,000 undeliverable ballot applications. Additionally, according to the data, the number of inactive voters in Waterbury has dropped only slightly since January. The Waterbury Registrars are very good, but Waterbury needs to verify how the voters rolls have been scrubbed since 2020.
Each undeliverable ballot is an opportunity for fraud as applications can be intercepted by neighbors, political operatives, or even family members and sent in to fraudulently acquire a live ballot. Every time this happens, a legitimate vote is cancelled out.
There is a better way to invest taxpayer money. In 2020, Town Clerk Antoinette Spinelli legally applied for and received $82,704 in private funds known as ‘Zuckerbucks.’ She used this funding toward facilitating the 2020 election voting process and making in-person voting safer. Protecting election staff and voters with PPE, adding new volunteers and essential election equipment are all worthy investments for improving the voting process for all voters. If Waterbury has $40,000 to $60,000 of taxpayer money to use, than Ms. Spinelli should repeat this successful formula and invest these funds to ensure the in-person experience is safe.
The City of Waterbury has an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in 2020 and continue the best practices they demonstrated for improving in-person voting. The current mass mailing plan is high risk and low reward. Waterbury’s voters already have safe and secure access to absentee ballots. Any additional investments made should be to make sure this year’s election is fair and does not create an additional burden on the taxpayers of Waterbury.
Rapini is a candidate for the position of Secretary of the State