Lawsuits Filed Against Connecticut Secretary of the State over Absentee Voting

“IT’S ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Jul. 5, 2020) — On July 1, a Connecticut-based non-profit filed a lawsuit naming Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (D) as defendant as a result of her announced intent in early May to send absentee-voter applications to every registered voter for the state’s primary elections on August 11 without action from the Connecticut General Assembly and the voters of the state in accordance with the Article Sixth of the state constitution.

On Friday The Post & Email spoke with Linda Szynkowicz, founder of Fight Voter Fraud, Inc. (FightVoterFraud.org), whose lawsuit, brought on behalf of four Connecticut congressional primary candidates, claims that Merrill has violated both Connecticut’s election statutes and the state’s constitution by making the decision to not only send the unsolicited applications, but also to provide “COVID-19” as a legal “excuse” for voters to cast their ballots by absentee.

FightVoterFraud was founded last year as a 501 (c)(4) organization with the purpose of assuring “one vote for one legal voter” in Connecticut. After unsuccessfully seeking a seat in Connecticut’s General Assembly in 2014, 2016, and 2018, learning of “many instances of potential voter fraud” and that Connecticut dedicates very limited resources to investigating reports of election fraud, Szynkowicz believed it incumbent upon her, with the help of others, to delve into the issue.

Of the group’s activities, Szynkowicz told us, “There is so much to do. Fundraising is a huge element; we also need a lot more funding to pay for the legal fees.  We research articles on voter fraud across the country, and collecting data is a big part.  We are engaged in educating the public on voter fraud and why they should be concerned. We also mail out letters and questionnaires.  Dominic Rapini, Board Chair and VP of Marketing and Development, has an integral part in Fight Voter Fraud, Inc. He crunches the data and does a fantastic job with the Zoom presentations which are used to educate the public on what we at Fight Voter Fraud are working for – ‘One vote for one legal voter.’ He is an incredible asset for Fight Voter Fraud and its mission and very adept at fundraising as well.”

Szynkowicz is again seeking election to Connecticut’s 33rd district House of Representatives.  Along with FightVoterFraud, she founded EndVoterFraud, which gathers voter information for the purpose of achieving a “clean voter database.”

In its July 1 press release, FVF wrote, “Today Fight Voter Fraud Inc. filed a lawsuit with the Connecticut Supreme Court on behalf of candidates on the August 11, 2020 ballot who wish to have a fair, honest, and constitutional election. The lawsuit asks the Court to order  SOTS Denise Merrill to stop sending voters applications that misinform about the true legal requirements for voting by absentee ballot.”

The full press release is here:  Press Release July 1 2020 Updated

The complaint can be read here:  Supreme Court Absentee Ballot Complaint – FINAL with Exhibits[2485]

“The Secretary of the State’s Application for Absentee Ballot for the August 11, 2020 primary election, which is expected to be mailed to all Connecticut voters, uses the COVID-19 pandemic to unconstitutionally impose effectively no-excuse absentee voting,” the suit states on page 1. “However, the Connecticut Constitution does not permit no-excuse absentee voting and entrusts the electorate to define the scope of absentee voting through constitutional amendment. The Constitution further assigns to the Legislature the obligation of implementing the will of the electorate. Neither the Secretary of the State nor the Governor has the constitutional authority to prescribe, expand, or alter the rules governing absentee ballot voting. There is no pandemic exception to the Connecticut constitution. The Application for Absentee Ballot that the Secretary has prepared for the August 11, 2020 primary election should be rescinded.”

As stated in the lawsuit, Merrill approved the preparation of absentee-ballot applications to contain “COVID-19” as a reason for voters to request an absentee ballot for August 11.  To the right of that choice is stated, in bold print, “All voters are able to check this box, pursuant to Executive Order 7QQ.”

Connecticut’s primaries normally take place in late April but were postponed twice by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) out of concerns of transmission of COVID-19.  On March 10, Lamont declared public health and civil preparedness emergencies and later postponed the primaries by executive order to early June, then again to August 11.  The order expires on September 9, 2020.

On May 20, the day Connecticut’s “Phase 1” reopening commenced, Lamont issued Executive Order 7QQ titled, “PROTECTION OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RESPONSE – SAFE VOTING DURING STATEWIDE PRIMARY” which stated, among other COVID-19-associated assertions, that “absentee voting offers a proven method of secure voting that reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by allowing individuals to vote by mail and by reducing the density of in-person voting at polling places;…”

Further, Lamont decreed:

 

The executive order is unconstitutional, Szynkowicz told The Post & Email.

On Thursday, the AP reported, the League of Women Voters and two other plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in support of “mail-in” voting in Connecticut for the November general election.  The article referenced FightVoterFraud’s lawsuit claiming that en masse absentee voting does not meet the “legal requirements for voting by absentee ballot.”

On July 2, The Hartford Courant reported FVF’s suit without naming the organization.  Regarding Lamont’s executive order pursuant to absentee voting, The Courant wrote, “Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Connecticut’s chief election officer, interpreted the order to mean that everyone can vote absentee in the primary.”

“When Denise Merrill made her decision two months ago that she was going to change the definition of ‘illness’  — that’s when we had to switch from the other lawsuit we were working on.  On June 17, we filed a lawsuit against her saying she could not change the definition of “illness.”  It’s against the Constitution, and the legislators are the only ones who can change law or start the process of changing the Constitution.  They have to have a two-thirds majority, then it gets put on the ballot, and then the public gets to vote on the change in the constitution.”

In regard to absentee voting, Szynkowicz recalled, “that was actually done in 2014 and the public said, ‘No.’  We have that precedent, and what she did was change the definition of ‘illness,’ which is basically changing a law.  We filed the suit on June 17, but the media decided to make it political.  Forget about the facts, the GOP, the Democrats — it’s about the Constitution.  Because if she can shred the constitution on this, forget about all the other things.”

Merrill’s May 6, 2020 “Memorandum of Opinion” to which Szynkowicz referred postulates that Connecticut law governing absentee voting, and specifically, the excuse of “illness” voters might invoke to qualify, “cannot be limited to some affliction that leaves an individual debilitated or bed ridden.” [sic]  On page 2, Merrill stated, in part:

Looking first at the statutory language and the relationship to other statutes, “illness” cannot be limited to some affliction that leaves an individual debilitated or bed ridden. First, the statutory section itself does not define “illness” in such a way. Second, the statutory section at issue also uses the term “physical disability” which in and of itself identifies an individual with mobility issues that can be described as both an “illness” as well as a limitation on mobility. As such, it would be contrary to statutory construction to place the same or similar meaning to both phrases.

In addition, Connecticut General Statutes also provides additional methods of absentee balloting such as Supervised Absentee Balloting see section 9-159q, Emergency Absentee Balloting see section 9-150c, Permanent Absentee Balloting see section 9-140e, and Voting In Person After Voting By Absentee Ballot see section 9-158n.

Given the additional meanings of “illness” or “physical disability” when used in the other sections of the General Statutes, it stands to reason that “illness” as used in Connecticut General Statutes §9-135 must have a broad definition, one that gives meaning to the special circumstances by which voters can vote using an absentee ballot. Given the reasoning set forth above and the guidance provided by the Centers of Disease Control, the Office of the Secretary of the State has determined that any registered voter who has a pre-existing illness can vote by absentee ballot because that voter’s illness would prevent them from appearing at their designed polling place safely because of the COVID 19 virus.

In addition, individuals who may have been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual such as healthcare workers, first responders, individuals who are caring for someone at increased risk, as well as those that feel ill or think they are ill because of the possibility of contact with the COVID-19 virus should also be included in the category of voters that would qualify as “ill” for the purposes of absentee voting.

FVF’s June 17 lawsuit, which found the Memorandum of Opinion “an unlawful and unconstitutional expansion of absentee balloting,” can be read here:  Summons Petition and Exhibit A[2323]

Having served two terms as Secretary of the State during the tenure of former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) (2011-2019), Merrill successfully sought re-election in 2018, when Lamont was elected governor.  Merrill’s official biography states, “Since taking office, she has supported and expanded democratic participation, ensuring that every citizen’s rights and privileges are protected and that every vote is counted accurately. Secretary Merrill has worked to expand voter participation through Election Day and online voter registration. She has also improved Connecticut’s democratic accountability and integrity with a series of rapid response processes to Election Day problems.”

“The July 1 suit goes directly to the Connecticut Supreme Court, and we will have one Supreme Court justice who will make the decision on that lawsuit,” Szynkowicz further told us. “It’s very narrow on how you can file.  We also have to remember that the Supreme Court cannot make law or change our constitution.  That’s why we have a constitution; that’s what this whole thing is about.

“What the governor had done with his executive order also was not legal for him to do, and if you notice, he didn’t extend it to the November ballot, because if he did, he would also be violation of the federal constitution.  He has no comment on this lawsuit right now, and he directed the legislature not to come back until they have something in place for the absentee ballots, which is ridiculous.  So we’re trying to educate the legislators and the public that this is about the constitution.  It has nothing to do with suppressing anybody’s vote.”

According to The Connecticut Mirror on May 23, 2020, the General Assembly would first vote on the issue, as Szynkowicz said, and then a “two-year effort” would unfold in order to place the question on a statewide ballot.  The same source states that voter fraud “has occurred in Connecticut” in connection with absentee ballots.

As of July 1, 2019, Connecticut’s population was estimated at 3,565,287.  As a result of FVF’s work, Szynkowicz said she has learned that “we have over 200,000 inactive voters on the list in Connecticut, and we also have people who have passed away or moved on the list. There are also duplicate voters on the list. Through our numbers, using the census and the numbers from the SOS, there are about 530,000 people on the voter rolls who are questionable. We have 2.3 million registered voters, but here are some other statistics:  if you compare the census with the number of eligible voters in each county, as of 2016, Middlesex County has 113% of eligible voters registered.  The average in 2016 for Connecticut was about 92%. In 2018, I think the average was about 94%.  The rest of the country is at 66.9%.  We’ve lost a quarter-million people in the last ten years, but we’re gaining voters, and that’s where ‘ghost voters’ come from – somebody’s registered who doesn’t exist.  All we want is one vote for one legal voter; you also need a clean database.”

Historically speaking, Szynkowicz said, “Our constitution has been in place for over 200 years, and the first time there was an attempt to use absentee ballots was during the civil war for the soldiers, and it was turned down.  Our present system has been in place since 1965, and all of a sudden the Secretary of the State wants to change law.  We’re fighting for everybody; it’s about the constitution.”

In addition to the current COVID-19-related issues, FightVoterFraud claims the State of Connecticut has been violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), colloquially known as the “Motor Voter Law,” for many years in regard to requirements to remove ineligible voters from town voter rolls.  “The registrars are not checking signatures,” Szynkowicz said. “Provisional ballots” cast without a photo ID are often counted as if they were verified, she added.

The process of updating the voter database requires town registrars to send “canvasses” to registered voters who have not voted in two consecutive federal election cycles, Szynkowicz told us and the NVRA states in sections 34-42.  She maintains that registrars are not carrying out that responsibility regularly and uniformly.

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Updated, 8:02 p.m. EDT

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