Issues of Importance to Me

Where do I stand on... 

Voting Fraud

Voting Fraud does exist.  Sometimes it’s conspiratorial, such as the cases in Stamford and Bridgeport (see here and here) which each affected dozens of ballots.  Sometimes it’s just a single individual trying to get around the system.  Vigilance does not mean discrimination, however.  All eligible voters should be encouraged to get informed and to exercise their right to vote.  And those same voters should know that if someone tries to diminish their vote by trying to game the system, I’m not shy about filing a case against a miscreant with the State Elections Enforcement System, as I’ve done here, and here, and here.  I’ve also had to turn away a non-citizen who attempted to vote, but only after carefully explaining the process and stating I would welcome him back once he finished the naturalization process.

I’m asked often if I’m overly concerned with voter fraud?  In the first election I oversaw as Registrar the results changed on a recount by one vote.  Every vote does matter, and if you believe that you must be as vigilant in protecting against ineligible voters are you are in helping eligible voters to exercise their rights.

Voter ID / Photo ID

CT has very generous voter ID laws which do allow for the use of virtually any pre-printed government or financial document to be used as ID.  Photo ID is not required in almost all cases, with the exception of a small number of first-time voters in federal elections.

I believe showing ID is the most expedient way to manage the thousands of people who visit our Greenwich polling places each election.  For those of you who legitimately forget your ID, we’re glad to accommodate you with a legal affidavit signed by you as a substitute. For those of you who just like to refuse to show ID because you want to “test the system,” please understand you are stretching the one bounds and slowing the process for everyone.  I would ask you, what if everyone decided not to bring ID?  What would be demonstrated by the ensuing slowdown and chaos?

Expanding early voting

As a Registrar in a town with four train stations, I know how important commuting is to the lifeblood of our community.

Currently, 14.9% of residents in Fairfield County, CT work outside of the state, yet only 7.1% of voters vote by absentee ballot.  Given the long interstate commute of many residents, one could argue that proper education on the expanded availability of absentee ballots could lead to at least an incremental increase effect on turnout.

Both of these reasons to introduce no-excuse absentee ballots are examples of the desire to expand voting access. The corresponding systemic tension is a desire to protect the integrity of the voting process.

Critics of expanding the availability of absentee ballots can point to several pending cases of fraud and other abuse of these ballots.  In two of Connecticut’s largest cities, party officials were involved in unusual ways in the issuance and/or collection of ballots. In Bridgeport, a judge has ordered not one but two consecutive do-overs of a special primary due to these irregularities.   In Stamford, an ongoing criminal investigation surrounding voter impersonation using absentee ballots contributed to the electoral loss of the election official responsible for issuing absentee ballots.

Further, the Executive Director CT State Election Enforcement Commission says that most documented cases of fraud in Connecticut involve absentee ballots.

Coupled with the demonstrated fraud, there is an argument that Connecticut already has some of the highest voter turnout in the nation.  The yield from no-excuse absentee ballots may be less than one percent. In 2016, CT voter turnout was 13th highest in the nation, and almost equal to 100% vote-by-mail states:

2016 Presidential Election Voter Turnout

State

Voter Turnout Percentage

Connecticut

65.4%

Washington

65.7%

Oregon

68.3%

Colorado

72.1%

 

In Greenwich, we had 85% voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential election.  Based on some statistical estimates of the number of voters who had moved out of town but were still on the voter rolls at the time of the election, the “real” percentage of voter turnout may have been closer to 95%. I’m not certain that expanding “convenience voting” is going to make an impact in a community as engaged as Greenwich.  But it would certainly impact the cost of elections.

In the end, I look to the scholarship collected by President Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration.  The scholarship lines up that expanding early voting (“convenience voting”) has a marginal effect, and it is often short-lived as part of a novelty effect.  To quote from one of the scholarly papers, “the search for reforms that will truly reduce the barriers to participation and increase turnout will have to continue.”

Spending Taxpayer Dollars on Elections

Even with increased payroll for employees and elections workers, we spent the same amount of money on the 2016 election as we spent in 2008.  Through a series of innovations we’ve demonstrated the benefits of technology by making the process faster while simultaneously providing more data to candidates and political junkies.  We were the first department to create a shortcut URL directly to our web-pages. See for yourself at greenwichct.gov/vote. I’ve personally re-written every aspect of our website, and you can now do dozens of things online which used to require at least one visit to the office. 

 

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