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Connecticut Town Clerks Concerned About Proposals To Expand Absentee Balloting


May 04, 2009

Town clerks statewide are opposing bills seeking a constitutional change to allow early voting in Connecticut because they fear the proposals lack sufficient safeguards to deter election fraud.

"We're not against the concept of having more people vote. But we're concerned about the loss of accountability in any law allowing anyone to use absentee ballots for any reason," said Joseph Camposea, Manchester town clerk and president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association. "There's no reason to rush into this."

Proposals pending in the House and Senate seek to remove all restrictions to absentee ballot use and allow anyone to vote by that process for any reason prior to Election Day.

But because the change to permit "no excuse" absentee balloting would involve amending the state constitution, it would need more than routine approval by the General Assembly to take effect. A minimum of 75 percent of both the House and Senate would have to vote for the change, and then it would go before state voters. Under state rules, however, the earliest the question could appear on a state ballot would be in November 2010.

The expansion is supported by Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, who said she believes that it will allow more people to vote.

"This is an opportunity to expand participation in our electoral process," she said. "The impetus came during the presidential election, when people saw early voting that was allowed in some states. Thousands of people cast ballots prior to Election Day in those states."

She said the threshold for approval of early voting is steep, and "we'll have to see how it goes."

It's impossible to say how many people might cast early ballots if the proposal wins approval. Bysiewicz said state laws and oversight by town election officials should weed out election fraud in early voting.

Town clerks who distribute, record and verify absentee ballots aren't so sure, Camposea said.

They fear a flood of applicants would turn clerks' offices into polling places and overwhelm the staff that by law must track and verify the legality of each absentee ballot, he said.

"We're worried about a loss of accountability if this change is made. Why hasn't this been studied?" he said. "The potential for fraud is there. And fraud undercuts the integrity of the voting process. We're doing our best to make our points known."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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