July 28, 2020

VOICES Gianquinto: Witless Witkos, GOP Boxed in on Expanded Absentees

Tuesday began the CT Senate’s turn at special session to pass four important pieces of legislation. The upper chamber will work to match the effort of House members last week, who passed an extension of telehealth coverage in the time of COVID, consumer protections on insulin costs, a landmark police accountability bill, and an expansion of absentee ballot access for the 2020 general election.

Incumbents and challengers are used to being among the masses by this time in an election year, glad handing at fairs, speaking at BBQs, marching in parades. But we’ve all been stuck inside, where Republican Senators apparently can’t hear the roar of CT voters cheering on the idea that voting will be easier and safer this year.

That's because this year (all it took was a pandemic) CT voters will be allowed to use an absentee ballot to cast their vote if they are concerned or fearful of COVID. Further, all registered voters will be mailed an absentee application. It is as close to the GOP nightmare hellscape that is no-excuse absentee balloting as we’ve ever seen in our state, and it’s still not nearly enough. None of it is permanent—when the calendar hits 2021, we’ll go right back to the steady habit of artificial and unnecessary roadblocks to voting that has left us looking up at 34 other states.

Because this is such a simple, sensible solution that will see fewer voters showing up in person on Election Day, it’s been difficult to watch Republicans wrestle with it.

Our own State Senator Kevin Witkos went out of his way to stand up and express his support for a doomed amendment that would prohibit the mass mailing of absentee applications. Even though this effort at protecting voters’ health is funded entirely by a federal grant, Witkos complained that the cost was too great. He suggested that because some applications (already available online for anyone to use) might be mailed to the wrong address, confidence in the resulting vote would erode. He did that without mentioning that someone needs to complete and return an application, and appear on the registration rolls in order to be issued a ballot in the first place.

Senator Dan Champagne from Vernon cried crocodile tears at the thought of drop-off ballot boxes distributed at town halls not being touchless. During the house debate, Republican legislators protested a bit too much about the potential of people vandalizing absentee ballot boxes. Their more devious supporters were sure to read between the lines. Republicans complained that they are all too often accused of voting to suppress the vote. Then they voted to suppress the vote.

In the end of course they supported the final bill, but that didn’t stop them from trying to gut it first. Acquiescing to this support, State Senator Rob Sampson lamented that he felt boxed in. He’s absolutely right—and we can thank Democrats in the legislature for putting Sampson, Witkos  and the rest of them in there. Let's keep them there by adding to Democratic ranks in November, all of us voting by absentee.

Republicans complained that they are all too often accused of voting to suppress the vote. Then they voted to suppress the vote.

Latest Posts

join our mailing list