It’s time for Connecticut to step up in the fight for democracy

(Jack Pavia)
Letters to the editor. Send signed letters to Nancy@NancyOnNorwalk.com with a suggested headline.

As the 2024 election rapidly approaches, the Democratic Party is once again positioning the choice on the ballot as a dichotomy between democracy and fascism. The actions of the Republican Party and its most fervent supporters in the wake of the 2020 Election match this description — unfounded claims of widespread election interference, restrictive voting laws in states such as Georgia and Texas that echo the poll taxes of the Jim Crow era, and the infamous midafternoon attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

As a young voter, I believe that Connecticut legislators, when they convene in a few short months, have the opportunity to push forward an agenda that would make Connecticut a model for voting rights and people-powered democracy to expand on the progress of last session’s early voting bill. However, it’s going to take guts and a vision.

It’s only two paragraphs into the 2022 Connecticut Democratic Party’s platform that “the sanctity of voting” is invoked. However, in the specific “Voting Rights” section of the document, there’s simply a touting of their previous accomplishments and a vague commitment to better voter outreach, a state-based Voting Rights Act, and a study of the benefits of ranked choice voting. While these are all noble goals, I believe that in order to catch up with states such as California and Colorado, bold policy action must be taken to give power to the people to express their opinions electorally.

On the level of education, Connecticut needs to do a better job in the pursuit of helping people – specifically young, lower income, and black and brown students – understand why politics matters. I believe this means going beyond what most civics classes will teach students about the form of our government; while it’s important to understand that we have a bicameral federal legislature and the President serves a four-year term, a useful understanding of government goes beyond that.

Students, especially in underserved communities, should be learning how to figure out the names of who represents them at all levels of government. They should know how to reach out to their representatives when they want their voice heard regarding what’s going on in their community and life. Local politicians should make it a priority to become stewards of the schools they represent, visiting classrooms regularly and connecting with students, helping them to understand that government is accessible and on their side.

Outreach and education about government and democracy kills apathy — a sentiment that plagues a lot of political conversations today, especially among young people.

Electoral participation in democracy, one of the end goals of education, is absolutely vital. However, Connecticut finds itself in a lackluster position relative to other states. For example, Connecticut has no Election Day holiday that mandates paid time off from work. This disproportionately hurts working class residents, making some in Connecticut have to choose between putting food on their table and making it to the voting booth.

Connecticut residents also have no way to collect signatures in order to get a measure on the ballot for people to vote on. Direct democracy is one of the most important ways citizens can express their opinions electorally. It’s vital for a thriving democracy, and something Connecticut lacks.

When the resident goes out to vote, why can’t ballot boxes be accessible to anywhere in the county to which the resident belongs rather than limiting people to assigned polling locations? That way, Connecticut voters could potentially vote on their way home from work or the grocery store. Regarding mail in voting, why aren’t postages pre-paid for residents? Why can’t they request an absentee ballot online, benefitting young people that are more adept at using the internet?

Over the summer, I attended an event where Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas along with Mayor Rilling and several other local officials honored specific poll workers. However, they don’t only need honor, they need protection from the rise in violence in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. We can create laws as states like Minnesota, Nevada, and New Mexico have protecting election officials from threats. We can ban guns from polling sites, proving with action that election worker intimidation has no home in the Nutmeg state.

Connecticut is an overwhelmingly blue state, and full disclosure, I’m a registered Democrat myself and voted blue up and down the ballot in my first election last year. That being said, all voters deserve to have their voices heard regardless of whether they have a partisan affiliation or not. The reality is almost half of Connecticut voters are not registered with either major party. While the majority of those voters have partisan leanings, they shouldn’t have to pick between the parties in order to participate in the primary process. To strengthen our democracy, we should have open primaries, allowing independent voters to choose the candidate they feel the most passionate about, ending the disenfranchisement of the hundreds of thousands of independent voters in our state.

Democracy was put to the test in 2020, and likely will be tested again in 2024. Connecticut voters have delivered decisive vote after decisive vote against fascism. Now is the time to lead by example and show America what it means to be a democracy.

Jack Pavia


25 responses to “It’s time for Connecticut to step up in the fight for democracy”

  1. Scott Vetare

    This is a joke right?!

    1. Bryan Meek

      @SV. Sadly I don’t think he is joking. Thanks to our floundering public education system there are many ill-informed voters like this on the rise who think they are voting against fascism when that is exactly what they support. They support unchecked executive orders and imprisoning those who would peacefully protest election results. Both of which fit the very definition of fascism. The let’s not even go to the steering of contracts to connected donors and supporters.

  2. David Muccigrosso

    While most of this isn’t objectionable, and would benefit Connecticut quite well, we should be VERY careful about adopting too much direct democracy. California’s horrific referendum system is an example of what NOT to do here.

    Direct democracy can be good, but we are a republic for a reason. And that reason is that no one person can be expected to know EVERYTHING about government and politics. For just one example, I and Jack both probably consider ourselves more well-informed than 90% of the population, and yet both of us would have no choice but to admit that we don’t have perfect information nor perfectly well-formed opinions about the minute details of, say, dairy industry policy.

    We elect our representatives to handle these details FOR us. Which is why I think it’s sad that Jack has chosen to de-emphasize Ranked Choice Voting. The plain truth is, we need more options. Our outdated “First Past The Post” system reduces every single decision to a binary, while in reality, most decisions AREN’T binary. RCV will help alternative voices and ideas speak up, and help us get out of this two-party rut our politics is stuck in.

    1. Jack Pavia

      Completely fair point. I’m a big fan of Ranked Choice Voting — I think it allows for people to not have to play a game of punditry when voting, giving them the ability to choose who they actually agree with the most on issues instead of who they think is simultaneously semi-agreeable and more likely to win an election.

      Regarding direct democracy, while I understand and agree with your point that not everyone can be an expert, I think there are also many other examples I could point to where voters actually end up supporting policies that would otherwise end up stuck in legislative committees or held up by unpopular representatives. I feel that it’s necessary for when voters don’t connect a popular policy to a populist politician. For example, in the 2020 election in Florida, while Donald Trump won the state by nearly 400,000 votes, on the same ballot it approved a $15 dollar minimum wage by over 2,000,000 votes. Donald Trump, of course, doesn’t remotely support a $15 minimum wage — Joe Biden does. It was the direct ballot initiative that allowed the personalities, twisting of words, and party polarization to stand down and allow people to vote on a policy without the noise. In Missouri, a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana won by over 6 points. As it turns out, among Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the candidates in 2020 (and likely 2024), neither candidate supports legalizing marijuana (Biden supports decriminalization, Trump doesn’t support any changes). However, because of the ballot initiative, voters in Missouri got the chance to make their voice heard and end the prohibition of marijuana. I support representative democracy as the default method of governance, but I think there is definitely a place for direct ballot initiatives and they’ve allowed for policies to cut through the noise.

      Appreciate your feedback!

  3. Scott Peterson

    Thanks for this, Jack. I haven’t given a lot of thought to most of what you’re proposing. I have given a fair amount of thought to open primaries and rank-choice voting. When it comes to the potential improvement of our democracy, in my opinion, no other changes come close. Why not mention rank-choice voting here?

    1. Jack Pavia

      I think rank choice voting is a fantastic improvement to democracy. Its omission is wasn’t for my lack of support — I absolutely love the idea of voting for the candidate that truly resonates with you rather than choosing the lesser of two evils or engaging in punditry regarding which candidate is the most electable versus the opposition. More choice is a healthier democracy as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve been very happy with the results that it has yielded in states like Alaska. Thanks for reading!

  4. Mike Murray

    The premise is wrong from the start. The title should be Connecticut needs to step up its fight for a Constitutional Republic. We are not a democracy. The Constitution was designed to prevent the rights of individuals against majority rule. The Connecticut Democratic Party should be fighting to protect individual liberties against the will of the majority.

    1. Jack Pavia

      I believe that democracy vs constitutional republic is a bit of a false dichotomy. Being a democracy and a constitutional republic are two different things — a democracy is a system of government while a constitutional republic is a form of governance. I’d recommend reading this article on the subject, it’s very interesting.


  5. Bryan Meek

    Laughable. Coming from the party that allows unelected super delegates to pick its frontrunner instead of its own voters.

    1. Jack Pavia

      My article was written by me, not the Democratic Party. Additionally, superdelegates (less than 15% of all delegates) at the DNC were reformed in 2018, barring them from voting in the first round of voting — only allowing their presence in the event of a contested convention. In any case, I’m not a big fan of the concept of superdelegates in the first place.

      1. Bryan Meek

        Funny because your talking points seem like direct stenography I hear like a drumbeat when watching various news outlets. I guess you originated all of this thought. And also thanks for the math lesson that 15% can’t sway a close election. That’s something I might need to fork over my math degree for if I can’t reconcile the logic. I guess at least it’s somewhat promising that you are not a fan of the super wealthy politically entrenched leaders who purport to uphold your ideals who in turn get to decide who your frontrunner is time after time.

  6. Steve Mann

    Here we have a textbook case of juvenile Trump Derangement Syndrome, as evidenced by myriad false narratives, as learned from mainstream media. This syndrome poses a far greater threat than any flu virus. I am always thrilled when a young member of society takes the time and effort to become politically involved in our election process, but it would do the writer good to examine the narratives he professes for validity.

    To wit:
    First, there is a sign outside every polling place nationally prohibiting gun carrying on site. The sign actually shows a picture of gun to eliminate any confusion as to what is prohibited. All signs are printed in English and Spanish. Other weapons are also prohibited from the site. To suggest that one is free to enter a polling site with a weapon is absurd.

    Second, while Election Day is observed in all states, US territories and protectorates, it is not a holiday. I almost all cases, polls are open for thirteen hours on Election Day. The premise that one must choose between “putting food on their table” (nice drama!) or getting to the poll is preposterous. Find a way to vote. This is not to mention that early and absentee voting commence weeks ahead of Election Day.

    There is no postage required to mail an early mail-in ballot. The suggestion that one needs to put a stamp on that ballot is patently false.

    Having worked at polls in both blue and red states, I speak from a fairly deep pool of experience. In the hundreds of hours, I’ve spent at polling precincts, never once, not once has anyone been denied a right to vote. On the contrary, we as poll workers take pride in making sure that all who enter the site are stewarded so as to make sure they get to vote. Inaccurate ID, no ID, address changes, disabled persons issues, language barriers, et.al, are all easily handled. If the voter has taken the time to properly register, according to their states guidelines, poll workers will make sure they get to vote. Period. The only partisan persons present at the poll are Poll Watchers. Check your local election website to see what they do.

    The writer should do some due diligence in learning the definition of fascism. If he thinks that the GOP professes ANY of those tenets, he is grossly mistaken. Jack, there’s a document called the Constitution. I would encourage you to read it thoroughly, a few times. That should give you a blueprint to the GOP modus operandi.
    All we need to hear these days is the statement that “our democracy is in peril” to understand that the speaker is the one we need most fear. Ignorance is rampant throughout our country today. Statements made by those who are only parroting what they’ve heard from radical news sources are dangerous because others not inclined to do their homework will gladly frame those falsehoods as gospel.

  7. Michael McGuire

    Thanks for your article.

    You bring up interesting, well thought out observations, most of which point to the general loss of public trust in our voting system. I think it’s safe to say the loss of public trust is the foundational cause of most of the ills you bring to light and is the primary reason for the current division in our nation.

    I agree with you on the public education aspect. This would lead me to ask, why is public education missing on this ‘very simple to fix’ issue?

    Likewise, your passion for the prospect of a thriving democracy is commendable and your solutions are well reasoned. I’m with you on the thriving democracy part, but I would suggest a deeper cut at the solutions.

    Again, consider the foundation of all this – public trust. Anything that adds more ‘links in the chain of custody’ of ballots erodes the public trust. As a smart young man, I think you will be able to see this when viewed through the lens of public trust. Mail in, on-line, etc. all add more links.

    The only way to revive the public trust in our voting system is to minimize the ‘chain of custody’ of voter ballots. France faced this same problem in 1975, significant voter issues brought about by too many links in the chain of custody instituted over the prior two decades.

    France went on to remove many of the links by going back to old fashion paper ballots with great oversite, all done in one day. Today, while France might seem a basket case, the electorate has faith in the voting process, much more so than we do here at home as the polls attest.

    1. Jack Pavia

      Appreciate your feedback! Wasn’t aware of France’s issues in the 1970s with public trust in elections, but I’ll look into it.

      1. Michael McGuire

        Hi Jack,

        I’d be interested in your take on the following question. What is better for democracy, a government that want to increase the number of links in the ‘chain of ballot custody’ thus reducing public trust; or a government that wants to reduce the number of links in the ‘chain of ballot custody’ therefore increasing the public trust?

  8. Patrick McAuliffe

    Congratulations to you Jack for caring enough to join the public discussion of our civic life. For every snarky, juvenile ad hominem attack, there are many of us that silently appreciate your willingness to think about what you feel will make our society and better place..for all. Even if we disagree with you Put you energy into responding respectful, productive remarks. You show a maturity and generosity of spirit that many would do well to emulate.

    1. Jack Pavia

      I really appreciate your comment! No matter our political views, approaching issues with humility and good faith should always be the #1 priority.

  9. John C. Miller Jr.

    @Jack: It is encouraging to see that younger folks like yourself are paying attention to what is going on in the body politic. Unfortunately, the use of pejorative terms like “fascism” and “Jim Crow” that we constantly read or hear in the media only serve to demonstrate how divided the country actually is and do not reflect what the founders intended it to be. Below is a link to “The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution.” I have found it a useful way to separate the political rhetoric from reality. I hope you will too.


    1. Jack Pavia

      Appreciate the feedback and you reading my piece! Your linked guide to the Constitution looks to be a great way to break things down.

      Regarding the terms like fascism/Jim Crow, I understand how they can be seen as media buzzwords, and there are figures out there that can devalue their meaning by throwing them around meaninglessly. In today’s world though, I do feel as though they’re necessary words to use. In terms of fascism, I am not claiming that every Republican voter, or even the vast majority of them, is a principled fascist. However, I’m genuinely worried about the ideological direction of some of the Republican party’s leaders from the vast majority either being complicit in or pushing the idea of overturning the 2020 election to the banning of certain educational topics/books in schools and blatantly partisan + ahistorical courses being taught in some states from groups like PragerU.

      In terms of Jim Crow, I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t made any progress since the pre-civil rights era, but some of the recent voting laws in states like Georgia and Texas that came about in the wake of the 2020 election (which saw record turnout) seem to attempt to disenfranchise voters — disproportionately effecting working class and minority voters, hence the comparison to Jim Crow. In Texas, predicated on the false notion that the 2020 election was somehow not secure, they banned 24 hour polling sites and drive through voting, while in Georgia their election bill requires a photo-ID for mail in voting (we don’t have universal ID, less of those in minorities tend to have driver’s licenses) and reduces the window of time that someone can request an absentee ballot. Similar to a poll tax, a hallmark of the Jim Crow era, these policies may not seem discriminatory on their face. But an examination of the disproportionate effects of these rules, I believe, warrants the reference to the era.

      Again, thank you for the feedback!

      1. John C. Miller Jr.

        @Jack: The only comment I have as a follow up is don’t be snookered by the mainstream media. Any resemblance to accurate, unbiased journalism ended years ago with the retirement of journalists like Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw. The media crowd today bears a closer resemblance to Saul Alinsky, who advocates using pejorative terminology to label and divide. I’m glad that you think that the vast majority of Republicans may not be principled fascists but the fact that you even think that any Republicans are fascists is disturbing and demonstrates that you have been snookered by the mainstream media. Although January 6 was a national disgrace and should never happen again, it was a Republican Vice President who honored his oath and certified the election. Also, if you are going to refer to PragerU courses as ahistorical you also need to refer the courses by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kindi and Robin DiAngelo as ahistorical.

        Now for Jim Crow. When the president referred to the Georgia Voting law as “Jim Crow 2.0 when it was passed, I decided to find out what the fuss was all about, so I went on the State of Georgia website and over the course of the next two days read the 95-page law twice, very carefully. Not only does it not restrict or impede anyone’s right to vote, it made voting in Georgia easier than voting in Connecticut at that time. The term “Jim Crow” is thrown around pretty frequently these days. Here’s some historical perspective: The Democrat Party was the party of the Confederacy; it was the party of the Ku Klux Klan; it was the party of Jim Crow; and it was the party of pole taxes. The two longest filibusters in the history of the United States Senate were conducted by Democrats in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (Strom Thurman D-SC) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Robert Byrd D-WV). Were it not for the Republicans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have become law. It was also a Republican President who deployed troops from the 101st Airborne and federalized the National Guard to integrate schools in Little Rock, AR. Pretty fascist, wouldn’t you say.

  10. stephen balazs

    John Miller you are 100% correct about Republicans being far more supportive of Civil Rights than many Democrats in the 1960s- but not all Democrats filibustered- just the southern Democrats. In the 1960s there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. As you know, those conservative Democrats became alienated by liberal Democrats and the Republican Party shifted right- with a policy to bring those southern Democrats onboard through dog whistles- shortly before his death, Republican political spinmeister, Lee Atwater acknowledged the same and apologized for it on his deathbed. By 2000 the transformation was almost 100% complete- southern Democrats like Jesse Helms and segregationist, Storm Thurmond had switched sides and were now the lynchpin of the Republican Party. Today the solid South refers to Republicans and not Democrats. Meanwhile- Rockefeller Republicans and later even moderately conservative Republicans became known as RINOs and were expunged from the party. It’s great that Republicans and liberal Democrats in the 50s and 60s advanced Civil Rights legislation but there’s no resemblance between Nelson Rockefeller, Prescott Bush and Lowell Weicker with today’s Republican Party and any attempt to draw a connection is disingenuous and not being honest with yourself. The people who rioted at the Capitol on January 6th would’ve wanted to hang them as much as they wanted to hang Mike Pence. The Republican Party in 2020 couldn’t even advance a party platform since it simply became the party of Trump. Jack Pavia you wrote an honest and accurate essay that many of those who’ve responded have grave difficulty accepting (also explains why the Republican Party in Norwalk- is so out of touch) and for those of us who it does resonate with – a plan of action. Keep up the good work Jack.

    1. Jack Pavia

      I really appreciate your breakdown of the 1960s party switch and positive essay feedback!

      1. John C. Miller Jr.

        @Jack: While Mr. Balazs is correct that there was a Republican shift from the Northern States to the Soutern States in the 1960s, he forgot to point out that the current governors of Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, and North Carolina are Democrats so I guess the solid Republican South isn’t quite as solid as Mr. Balazs claims it is. Stay engaged Jack but don’t let Trump Derangement Syndrome get in the way of reality.

  11. Joseph Berman

    “Connecticut voters have delivered decisive vote after decisive vote against fascism.”
    So you think we have “facism” ? Y
    You obviously failed in history when it comes to Nazi Germany or Facist Italy during the reign of Mussolini or Hitler Thankfully my parents don’t have to read the BS flying around these days by failled journalists who are too lazy to do some homework or pretenf they are “journalists” about “facism”.
    I am curious as how you omitted the riots in ther Summer of Love i of 2020 when the likes of Antifa were rioting and destroying goverment buildings and somehow the so called press buried it next to the want ads or did not mention it at all. Edward R Murrow and Walter Cronkite are rolling in theri graves.

  12. Nathaly E

    Hi Jack. I appreciate your enthusiasm, it’s inspiring and refreshing! Congrats on having voted on your first election last year. Please remain committed. Even when things look/sound absolutely dreadful, there’s always hope!

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