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The two sides of Sen. Formica's mouth on early voting

I was stunned this week that Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme proclaimed during a virtual forum with legislators that he and every other lawmaker in Hartford support an expansion of absentee ballot voting in Connecticut.

The devil is in the details, he seemed to suggest.

If I were drinking something at the time, I would have had to spit it out.

Not only are Formica's Republican colleagues already in court to try to stop Secretary of the State Denise Merrill from expanding absentee voting for people with health risks in the pandemic, but he was a prominent Senate vote last year against an early voting measure that would not have helped in the coronavirus pandemic but would have put the question on the ballot this fall.

Connecticut is one of only 11 states that don't allow early voting.

This is a familiar Republican dodge tactic, used when they try to cater to their base or appease party leaders and then justify those votes that are generally unpopular with everyone else.

Oh, sure, I'm for gun control, many Connecticut Republicans have said, while voting against gun control legislation, with lame excuses about the language of the bills or the length of the public hearings.

The issue of helping Connecticut residents vote as safely as possible during the pandemic is not as complicated as the senator from East Lyme would have you believe.

The state's constitution allows for specific reasons to vote by absentee ballot, including "sickness."

There is some common agreement that widely applying the term sickness during the pandemic would require more clarity, to be sure it is indeed constitutional.

Merrill has done that with an order she claims she is empowered to make, in her constitutional duties to clarify and interpret election law.

Republicans are challenging that order in court.

Some Republicans also have suggested they will not support a call by Gov. Ned Lamont to have lawmakers, during a special session this summer, clarify by law that the term sickness could constitutionally apply during this public health crisis.

There is sound justification in many legal quarters for the governor's proposal for legislation expanding absentee voting in this year of sickness.

Not only is it disturbing that Connecticut Republicans could refuse to allow people to safely vote by mail, but they are also fanning their president's alarming and unproven suggestion that mail-in voting could lead to wide fraud and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the fall election.

President Donald Trump's assertions about the legitimacy of the election have grown in lockstep with his precipitous fall in the summer's polls.

Sen. Formica's vote last year against a constitutional amendment sending the question of early voting to Connecticut voters put him in the most hard-line camp against the measure.

He was joined by Republican Sen. Heather Somers of Groton.

They later used the favorite "it's too vague" excuse about the measure, giving no credit to voters to be able to decide the issue.

The amendment passed by a sound bipartisan majority in the House, but Somers' and Formica's votes were among four by Republicans in the Senate that kept it from a 75% supermajority that would have put it on the ballot this fall.

If you end up in a long line this November, at an understaffed polling place, worrying about the people around you not wearing masks, remember where the parties stand on early voting and expanded absentee ballots.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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