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Thomas, Rapini talk laws, integrity in CT Secretary of State debate

Secretary of the State candidates Stephanie Thomas (D) and Dominic Rapini (R) debate Tuesday at the University of Hartford’s Lincoln Theater in West Hartford. (Mark Mirko, CT Public)

The 2022 Election is Nov. 8.

The two leading candidates vying to become Connecticut’s next Secretary of the State, Democrat Stephanie Thomas and Republican Dominic Rapini, met Tuesday night to debate how the state operates its elections and how voters can access the ballot.

The meeting offered a clear picture of the differences between the two campaigns and their beliefs on early voting, absentee ballots, voter identification laws and the size and scope of voter fraud in Connecticut.

The two candidates agreed on a few issues, such as the need to update the technology that the state uses to manage its elections and to provide support and training to local election officials in municipalities.

But there was little overlap beyond those points.

Many of the differences between the two candidates came down to how they view the current election systems and the role of the Secretary of the State.

Republican Secretary of the State candidate Dominic Rapini makes his closing remarks during a debate with Democrat Stephanie Thomas at the University of Hartford’s Lincoln Theater Tuesday. (Mark Mirko, CT Public)

Rapini’s primary objective is “election integrity,” he said. And he repeatedly argued during the debate that there was a “culture of fraud” in Connecticut elections, singling out Connecticut cities such as Bridgeport.

Meanwhile, Thomas said she views the duties of the statewide office as expanding voting accessibility and ensuring that no policy depresses voter participation.

The clearest example of those competing world views came during exchange over the issue of voter fraud and how prevalent it is in Connecticut.

Rapini, who previously served as the chairman of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., pointed to a recent conviction of a local Democratic chairman in Stamford, who was found guilty of signing and submitting absentee ballot applications for people without their knowledge.

That case was held up by Rapini as an example of the “culture of fraud” that he continued to cite.

Secretary of the State candidate Democrat Stephanie Thomas makes her closing remarks during a debate with Republican Dominic Rapini at the University of Hartford’s Lincoln Theater Tuesday. (Mark Mirko, CT Public)

In response, Thomas recognized the case, but she criticized Rapini for using those types of cases to argue that the larger election system is rigged.

She accused Rapini of “taking a germ of truth and stretching it to create harm and a loss of faith” in the entire election system.

The cases of voter fraud, Thomas added, are a small subset of the millions of votes that are cast in state elections.

Thomas, a Norwalk resident who serves in the state legislature, said she would rather focus her attention on driving up the state’s voter turnout numbers.

As part of that, she announced her support for an upcoming ballot referendum, which would give the General Assembly the ability to add in-person early voting in upcoming elections.

And she said she would be ready to introduce the required legislation in January, if voters pass the referendum this November.

“I’m a big fan of early voting,” Thomas said.

Rapini, on the other hand, labeled the upcoming referendum for early voting a “blank check” — something that other Republican lawmakers also claimed this year as they sought to prevent the referendum from making it onto this year’s general election ballot.

As he has in the past, Rapini continued to argue that allowing early in-person voting in Connecticut would become an “unfunded mandate” on town clerks and registrars of voters, who run the local election systems.

“I do not think early voting is right for Connecticut,” Rapini said.

“This is not where I want to put our money,” he added.

Thomas, for her part, recognized there was a cost to Connecticut joining at least 46 other states in adopting early in-person voting, but she argued the money and time needed to implement those systems were worth it in order to make it easier for people to cast a ballot.

The candidates also held opposite views on whether the state needs a new voter identification law.

Rapini has made a strict voter identification law a central pillar of his campaign.

“Voter ID, and particularly government ID, is fundamental to our democracy,” Rapini said as he kicked off the debate. “It’s fundamental to a functioning society. I think the thought of us not having voter ID is ludicrous.”

“I don’t know why it isn’t a no brainer,” he added.

Thomas said she believes that the current law works, and she argued that mandating a tight government identification requirement was a “solution in search of a problem.”

7 comments

Patrick Cooper October 20, 2022 at 6:05 pm

I’m sorry – I don’t want either candidate. BUT especially – I do not want Stephanie Thomas. She is a pure partisan, and therefore she cannot be trusted.

How do I know? My grandfather once told me – don’t watch what people say – pay attention to what they do. Deeds, not words.

Stephanie was a founder of the local Facebook page “Norwalk Women who Vote”. It’s a private group – 400+ members. On the surface, the marketing seems restricted only by gender. Wrong. You see, I know that Lisa Brinton for one tried to join, and Stephanie blocked her. Because it wasn’t about women – it was about democrats who happen to be women. Others who were seen as not part of the accepted group-think were also excluded. To quote her from a post on the site – “Getting Dems elected is so much fun, how can you resist?!” (I can prove this)

So Stephanie is the person who will work for “everyone”, without favor or bias? A Zebra doesn’t change to polka dots. Stephanie will only be concerned with getting Democrats to vote.

What about the “U” and “I” citizens? Would Stephanie be in favor of open primaries? Of ranked choice voting? Of anything that would bring the disenfranchised “middle” to the polls – which would threaten the radical element of the D-party? No. No. Never.

This position screams for non-partisan staffing. Blind to everything except residency. Let’s see the major parties argue that.

Sharon R. Baanante October 20, 2022 at 11:29 pm

Patrick,

I have known Stephanie Thomas for the past five years and I have an abundance of respect and admiration for her. If you knew her personally, you would know that she is fully committed to partnering with all groups and political parties. Did you know that prior to being the Democratic nominee for Secretary of the State of CT, Stephanie invited city clerks and registrar of voters across the state, from all political parties, to meet with her? She didn’t just sit down with Democrats. She wanted to hear from everyone. When I heard that she did that, it didn’t surprise me at all. Stephanie is out there, every day, listening and connecting with people from all different backgrounds. She has earned my vote. I am confident that she will be an exceptional Secretary of the State of CT.

For the record, Stephanie Thomas was NOT a Founder of Norwalk Women Who Vote. She was never an admin of the page either, so it would be impossible for her to have anything to do with who was or is accepted to the Norwalk Women Who Vote page.

Lisa Brinton October 21, 2022 at 4:09 am

If we want integrity in our state elections – why should the person overseeing them be red or blue? Not surprisingly, I will be voting for Attorney Cynthia R. Jennings – the Independent candidate for SOS, who was not allowed to debate. We also have an Independent Registrar of Voters candidate, Katherine Snedaker running here in Norwalk for the same reason.

I believe Connecticut is the only state in the country that guarantees election administration to two major party elected officials, a Democrat & Republican Registrar of Voters.  

I support moving all election operations to non-partisan election administrative officials. It would streamline the process, restore confidence in our elections for the ‘opposing side’ and reaffirm the voices of the over 40% who CHOOSE not to affiliate.

Ms. Thomas’ running for the specific role of SOS exemplifies my concerns over hyper partisanship. Her role in the private group ‘Norwalk Women Who Vote’ is unclear, but she was a founding member in 2019 and features prominently on the FB home page photo collage. I believe it would have been more truthful advertising if the group were to call themselves, ‘Democrat Norwalk Women Who Vote’ – as I was both excluded from their forums and repeatedly maligned on the page in the 2019 mayoral race. Totally fair game in politics – but not necessarily a good look for someone seeking to be the SOS charged with fairly representing everyone.

Stuart Wells October 21, 2022 at 8:20 am

A registered voter might not be able to produce their ID on Election Day because their purse or wallet was stolen very recently or lost recently in some natural disaster. State law provides that they fill out an affidavit and swear to their identity. A false statement would be a felony. Almost every voter produces an ID. Only a tiny handful fill out the affidavit across all of Norwalk’s 13 polling places.
We do encourage our poll workers to make sure the affidavit is fully filled out – in part to make it take longer than going back to the voter’s car to get their ID, if the voter left it in their car.
In Norwalk the Moderator and Assistant Registrars who receive the affidavit from the voter are able to look up (on their computer) the voter’s registration records to see, among other things, the voter’s birthdate (month and year) — making it difficult to impersonate someone much older or younger than the voter on the list. The affidavit would provide a signature which would prove useful to prosecutors in the event of actual fraud.
Someone trying to impersonate a voter would be more likely to have a fake ID – the last thing they would want to do is single themselves out for scrutiny by filling out a form and swearing to it.
There is no evidence that the tiny number of people who fill out the Affidavit of Identity in any given year are doing so fraudulently.
Stuart Wells, Norwalk Registrar of Voters

Bryan Meek October 21, 2022 at 10:57 am

If the politicos wanted election integrity we’d have it. They don’t.

Powerball can track 500 million transactions and tell you the exact results in 15 minutes. You can secure debt financing with identity verification in minutes. Systems like this could be set up and monitored by independent audit firms. Not by partisan hacks.

Instead we are moving backwards to paper ballots through the mail that can’t be counted for days if and when they get there. Efforts to remove the dead and people who have moved out of state are usually met with fierce opposition. Does anyone really believe that early voting will solve the Late voting that has gone on each of the last 3 gubernatorial cycles? Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven….which city’s turn is it this year to mangle the process “accidentally”?

Michael McGuire October 21, 2022 at 11:05 am

I don’t understand why early voting and mail-in ballots is essential and to be against it is to be a “threat to our democracy” as is the new mantra voiced by political leadership and main-stream media.

Increasing access to voting is a good thing. But really, do we need to turn the nation against itself to appease a very, very small minority of people that legitimately might benefit from early voting/mail-in ballots. Frankly, that is not democratic.

Case in point. France just held its national election 4 or 5 weeks ago. It was done in one day and by 8 or 10 PM local time all the ballots were counted, and everyone knew who won. And everyone accepted the vote because it was open and accountable. Oh, and by the way it is done on paper ballots for 80 million people. This makes it very hard to cheat.

The French did away with machine counting, early-voting, and mail-in-ballots (except for reasonable conditions) years ago citing its high capacity of being manipulated (voter fraud) and the added costs. Hmmmm…..

It would seem the real “threat to our democracy” would be machine voting, early-voting, and mail-in-ballots as the French experienced, no?

Both sides of the isle have been citing fraud within our voting system since 2000 when much of the questionable methods of voting started to come into existence.

The expanding nature of the internet during that time period allowed for an ever increasing body of information to become available. The gene is out of the bottle so to speak. Americans of all political persuasions now believe that something was not right in 2020. The left, the establishment right, big-tech and mainstream media’s constant denial, censorship and refusal to bring to light both sides of the argument just add fuel to the fire.

Americans know this. The charade is over. If we don’t have integrity in voting, we don’t have a country.

The solution is very, very, very simple. Free, fair and open elections for all legal American Citizens using paper ballots like France and counted same day with open public scrutiny of the counting process. How is that a “threat to our democracy”?

Kay Anderson October 21, 2022 at 9:29 pm

Mr. McGuire fails point out that to Election Day in France is on a SUNDAY, and is treated like a holiday to ensure easy access to a majority of citizens;.

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