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Formica response to suppress-voting charge: 'Nothing could be further from the truth.'

I was disappointed to see David Collins write columns, (“Can Connecticut GOP block safe voting,” June 11 and “The two sides of Sen. Formica’s mouth on early voting,” June 26), which ignore many facts and try to paint all Connecticut Republicans as wanting to risk people's lives in a public health emergency as a way of suppressing votes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Contrary to what is stated in Collins' columns, I absolutely believe that in the current environment there is a need for vulnerable populations and those with preexisting conditions to vote by absentee ballot, and if Collins had called me before writing columns attacking me, I would have explained my perspective in detail. In this unique situation, I support no-excuse absentee ballots for all people, with proper safeguards in place to ensure every legal vote is counted.

As much as I would like to see every person be able to vote by absentee ballot, there is also a state constitutional question as to whether any legislature or governor has the ability to change the laws on absentee ballots because of the restrictions contained in the Connecticut Constitution. That document can only be changed by Connecticut voters through a ballot question, not by the legislature, governor or any state official.

The Connecticut Constitution does not allow for no-excuse absentee ballots, and states that the legislature may define laws for voting absentee only if a person is, "unable to appear at the polling place on the day of election because of absence from the city or town of which they are inhabitants or because of sickness or physical disability or because the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity."

The question of what the legislature can do within these limits is currently being discussed amongst legislators and being looked at by the courts. We are awaiting an answer.

Collins wrongly jumps to conclusions about me based on a vote that took place last year long before the COVID-19 pandemic on a proposal to allow for early in-person voting, a different issue. I voted against a referendum on early in-person voting because there was no provision for a safe and secure method for which the early voting was to occur. Instead, the bill asked for a modification to the Constitution and left the safety and security provisions to be defined later. I thought it would have been fairly simple to outline the way early voting would occur with proper protections — in a town clerk's office during a preset time period for example — and thought that was an important piece missing from the legislation.

While Collins' intent seems to be designed to lump me and my Republican colleagues in with the division of Washington D.C., I have always worked with people on both sides of the aisle to reach solutions that help Connecticut residents. This issue is no different.

Our job as lawmakers is to make sure we have policies that protect everyone's rights, including access to voting, the integrity of their vote and upholding the Constitution. If we can address the constitutional question and get clarity from the court as to what the legislature can legally do in regard to absentee ballots, I would vote for no-excuse absentee ballots for all, with proper safeguards during this difficult time.

State Senator Paul Formica represents the residents of the 20th Senatorial District, which includes Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford. Senator Formica serves as Deputy Senate Republican Leader, Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee, and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tourism Caucus. For more information visit senatorformica.com.

 

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