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Washington GOP chooses lie over Cheney; state Republicans stall voting reforms

On Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives punished one of their own, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, because she would not accept a lie.

Cheney recognizes that the “Big Lie” — the claim that President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election because of widespread fraud and corruption — is a danger to U.S. democracy. By continuing to embrace rather than refute it, the Republican Party is placing fidelity to a man, Trump, above loyalty to the U.S. Constitution, democracy and the rule of law.

If the people cannot have faith in the vote, then the foundation of self-governance begins to crumble and the door opens to tyranny. Trump didn't like the results, so he denied the legitimacy of the outcome and demanded his supporters fight to keep him in office, in the process ignoring the decisions of state elections officials and the courts.

That is the strategy many House and Senate Republicans endorsed in refusing to accept the verdict of the voters via the Electoral College, on the same infamous day, Jan. 6, that hooligans invaded the U.S. Capitol to try to block Joe Biden’s ascendency to the presidency.

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” Cheney said Tuesday in the House chambers.

The next day, in a brief closed-door meeting, House Republicans, led by their cowardly leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, voted to remove her as their Conference chair.

It was expected, yet still stunning.

It offered a chance for Connecticut Republicans to separate themselves from the national party as it turns down this dark corner. But there were no news releases being issued by state Republican lawmakers or party leaders condemning the House action or applauding Cheney for her conviction.

In fact, quite the contrary. On Tuesday, the Republican minority stood in the way of allowing Connecticut voters, in the 2022 election, to decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee voting. The constitution now allows citizens to vote by absentee ballot only if they swear that absence from the state, military service or illness prevent them from getting to the polls on Election Day.

In blocking the proposed amendment from getting to voters as soon as possible, some Republicans invoked a slice of the Big Lie.

“We don’t need to open the floodgates to ballot fraud,” said Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford.

No-excuse absentee balloting is used effectively across the country. It was used in Connecticut in the 2020 election, when the legislature agreed to extend the illness exemption to include the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The amendment passed overwhelmingly in the House, 104-44, but fell seven votes short of the 75% super majority necessary to send it to the 2022 ballot. Voters in 2022 will be voting on another reform — a constitutional amendment that would for the first time allow early voting in the state. Republicans previously had blocked that amendment from expeditiously getting on the ballot.

The no-excuse absentee ballot measure will almost certainly get to voters. It will now take the alternate route of passage by a simple majority by successive legislatures, meaning the lawmakers who will be elected in 2022 and take office in 2023. That delays a referendum until 2024, however.

Locally, three Republican House members — Reps. Devin Carney, 23d District of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook; Holly Cheeseman, 37th District of East Lyme and Salem; and Kathleen McCarty, 38th District of Waterford and Montville — voted in favor of democracy by supporting the amendment.

Voting against sending the proposed amendment to voters were Republican Reps. Doug Dubitsky, whose nine-town 47th District includes a small section of Norwich; Mike France, whose 42nd District includes Ledyard, Montville and Preston; and Greg Howard, a freshman lawmaker serving the 43rd District of Stonington and North Stonington.

Crying fraud, Republicans pushed amendments that would have required signature verification on the outer envelopes used to vote by absentee ballot, a regulation they can still pursue if the constitutional amendment is approved.

Joining their national party in trying to suppress rather than grow the vote will not be a winning play for Connecticut Republicans.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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