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Can Connecticut GOP block safe pandemic voting?

President Donald Trump in April explained in very stark terms the longstanding efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote as a strategy to win elections.

"You'd never have a Republican elected again," Trump said, in response to proposals to expand the use of mail-in ballots for November to allow for safe voting during a pandemic.

The more votes that are cast, the Republican strategy suggests, the more likely they are to lose.

Alas, this is true for Republicans even here in enlightened Connecticut, and a partisan battle is setting up over what should be a simple measure to allow voters to participate in democracy while keeping themselves and their families safe.

Gov. Ned Lamont has said he would convene a special session of the General Assembly this summer for the limited dual purpose of allowing no-excuse absentee ballots this November and to address new police accountability measures.

In his pandemic executive orders, Lamont allowed for the expanded use of absentee ballots for this summer's primary voting, but his magic health emergency powers expire in September.

That means the legislature has to act to secure a safe November vote.

Of course there is no evidence to support the notion that mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud. Indeed, it creates a paper trail that would make fraudulent voting, especially with cyberattacks, less possible.

Democrats and some civil rights groups, like the ACLU of Connecticut, are largely all in for wider absentee voting for November. Republican leaders have suggested they will resist.

Both House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano have offered flimsy excuses for not supporting voting by mail in the time of a pandemic.

Next time anyone sees Fasano, they might ask the senator for one example of the fraud he suggests exists with absentee voting.

Connecticut, by the way, lags behind 39 other states in providing early voting opportunities like those Connecticut Democrats are suggesting for a safe and healthy 2020 election.

Southeastern Connecticut's two Republican senators expressed their opposition to moving forward with an early voting strategy, even before a pandemic was on the horizon.

Sen. Heather Somers of Groton and Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme last year rejected a measure, which passed with a bipartisan vote in the House, that would have sent an early voting measure to referendum in November.

Long before early voting was proposed as a life-saving measure, the two Republican senators weren't willing to let voters decide about an early vote.

Remember when you do finally vote, a lot of Republicans would have you stand cheek-to-jowl with other voters on Election Day, whether you or family members are old or otherwise at risk for the worst of COVID-19.

Maybe Democrats will be successful in flexing their majority and keep that from happening.

Some Connecticut Republicans seem to be channeling their best Trumpist selves, convinced that too much voting, the lifeblood of our democracy, is bad for them.

I hope they are proven right.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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