Ready or not, here comes early voting, emphasis on “or not.” In about six weeks, registered voters may begin casting ballots four days before the scheduled April 2 primary. In less than nine months, polling stations will open 14 days in advance of what promises to be the most contentious and divisive election in U.S. History. Yet no one in Connecticut is prepared for early voting. Not our Secretary of the State. Not our registrars. Not even voters themselves.
Based on his recent comments to the Connecticut Council of Small Governments, Gov. Ned Lamont cares so little about protecting citizens’ most sacred right that he’s neither willing to delay implementation of the scheme nor push for more funding.
The uncertainty surrounding early voting is so great that in a recent town hall in Meriden, four liberal Democrats – State Senator. Jan Hochadel and State Representatives Michael Quinn, Jack Fazzino, and Hilda Santiago — voiced their dismay at the headlong rush to implement such an ill-conceived and untested process. Never mind that every one of them voted for the speedy adoption of early voting; they now say implementation of the law should be delayed.
Registrars across the state await final rules from the Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas. They also await the long promised, secure voting machines equipped with a functional operating system designed to accurately track who’s voted when. Funding? Well, the legislature in its infinite generosity has allocated just $10,500 to each municipality, whether New Hartford or New Haven, to set up polling places and recruit and train staff. Cities and towns are on the hook for any extra costs.
Don’t count on our lawmakers to take the initiative to shut this travesty down. As frustrated as the Meriden delegation professed to be at their February 7 town meeting, they balked when asked how they would correct the situation. They said they would only act if and when registrars bring their concerns to them.
Voter skepticism already runs high in this state, thanks to alleged fraud in Stamford and the running joke known as the Bridgeport mayoral race. Registrars must unite to insist on immediate action to protect the accuracy – and legitimacy — of our vote. Likewise, we voters have a limited window to demand our elected representatives arrest the disaster barreling straight for us.