In response to Gov. Ned Lamont’s request for a special session, the General Assembly met on Tuesday (Sept. 26) to approve a new state Supreme Court Justice and to adopt a bill making minor technical changes to election laws with the focus on granting the Secretary of the State’s office the authority to hire an election monitor for the upcoming November election in Bridgeport.
The sudden urgency to hire an election chaperone stems from a recent video showing a woman repeatedly stuffing a number of papers into a drop box outside the Bridgeport city center a week before the Sept. 12 Democrat mayoral primary.
During a debate on an amendment to remove the mandate on drop boxes for elections, Sen. Herron Keyon Gaston (D-Bridgeport) emphasized, “I also dare to say that this issue that we’re having right now that we see out of Bridgeport is not just happening in Bridgeport it’s happening across many of our towns and many of our municipalities.”
Sen. Gaston refrained from specifying the municipalities engaged in the same absentee ballot scam. However, what is concerning is the apparent lack of concern for election integrity among the majority representatives in the General Assembly.
Sen. Mae Flexer (D-Windham) urged the chamber to vote against the amendment stating that other states use drop boxes and that “we’ll go back to making it harder for people to vote.” She did say she would be willing to have the conversation moving forward — but history suggests that is unlikely. During this past session, four different bills addressing absentee ballots were introduced in the Government Administration and Elections Committee — chaired by Sen. Flexer — yet none of them received a public hearing.
Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott), a proponent of the amendment, said the drop boxes “are more trouble than they’re worth” and that if “you’re voting by absentee ballot, you can already put the absentee ballot in the mail.” He pointed out that the biggest difference between a post office mailbox and a drop box is that “at least the slot on a post office mailbox is only big enough for one document at a time.”
The senator suggested that eliminating the drop boxes would help restore voter confidence in the election process; preempting criticisms from the amendment’s opponents, he emphasized that state should still “make sure that we don’t disenfranchise a single soul” and to make “the easiest possible thing to do.” However, Sen. Sampson added that “when you do that you also have a responsibility to the people of this state to make sure that election is legitimate.”
The amendment failed across party lines.
The same amendment was also brought up in the House by Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-Southington), but had it withdrawn because it was not germane to the scope of the special session. House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) stated that there was no mention of absentee ballots anywhere in the call from the governor.
Several proposed amendments aimed at enhancing election security were also rejected along party lines — including every member of the Bridgeport delegation — highlighting a missed opportunity to strengthen the absentee ballot process. Instead, a proposal granted the election chaperone authority to remove drop boxes in Bridgeport and implementing a mandatory one-year prison sentence for those convicted of election irregularities and improprieties.
Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) voiced his opposition to the mandatory minimum sentence, citing the offense’s existing classification as a Class D felony. He expressed concerns about the long-term consequences for individuals who violate election laws, emphasizing they will “have to walk around with that record as well as whatever punishment” is imposed.
Reports of absentee ballot fraud and other election irregularities underscore the urgency of reforms that are aimed at preserving the integrity of elections in Connecticut. These occurrences diminish public confidence, raising concerns among citizens about the fairness and transparency of the democratic process. Strengthening election security measures is essential to guaranteeing accurate vote counting and ensuring that every citizen’s voice is heard, ultimately working to rebuild trust in the democratic system.
Some Recent Instances of Voter Irregularities and Improprieties
• John Mallozzi, the former chair of the Stamford Democratic Party, was convicted, on 14 counts of false statement in absentee balloting and 14 counts of second-degree forgery in 2022. Mallozzi had signed numerous absentee ballot applications and envelopes with ballots in the names of individuals who were unaware of his actions during the 2015 elections for Stamford’s Board of Finance, Board of Education and Board of Representatives.
Mallozzi was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay fines totaling $35,000.
• Betty Chappell and Troy Stevenson were campaign workers for the 2017 mayoral election for Stephanie Phillips in Stafford. Chappell was charged with second-degree forgery and making a false statement on an absentee ballot. Stevenson, meanwhile, was charged with second-degree forgery and misuse of an absentee ballot.
Chappell received a five-year suspended jail sentence and Stevenson received two three-year suspended jail sentences in 2018. Chappell later went on to work on the 2019 mayoral campaign for Sen. Marilyn Moore in Bridgeport. Phillips, who was also Democratic Town Committee Chair at the time, was not involved.
• Christina Ayala, a former Bridgeport State representative, was arrested on 19 counts of voter fraud. She was accused of voting in local and state elections in districts she did not reside in. She also falsified evidence given to State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) investigators that showed she lived at an address in a district where she voted while actually living elsewhere. Her mother, the Democratic Registrar of Voters, was also the subject of an investigation in the case but was not charged.
Ayala pleaded guilty to two counts of providing a false statement and was given a suspended one-year prison term and prohibited from running for public office for two years.
• Rep. Minnie Gonzalez was fined $4,500 by the SEEC in 2009 for being present at Hartford’s city hall when four senior citizens were completing their absentee ballots.
• Lillian Cummings Stevenson was found her guilty by the SEEC of illegally signing and submitting two absentee ballot request forms on behalf or her sons, who were living in Europe.
Cummings was fined $200.
• Prenzina Holloway was fined her $10,000 by the SEEC for forging the signature of at least one voter, who told investigators he never asked for an absentee ballot, let alone completed and signed one. Holloway only had to pay $2,000 because she demonstrated financial hardship (although she somehow found the funds to purchase a used Hummer for $31,727 around the same time).
She was later hired by the Democrat Registrar of Voters office despite her ballot fraud past in 2009.
• Former State Rep. Barnaby Horton was found guilty of inducing low-income elderly people to cast absentee ballots for him.
Horton was sentenced to two years probation, fined $10,000, not allowed to run for public office for two years, never again solicit, distribute or assist with absentee ballots and perform 1,000 hours of community service for felon charges of ballot fraud.
While living in New York, Lauriann Serra submitted an absentee ballot to vote for her father — former State Rep. Joseph Serra. She told the SEEC she thought she was allowed to vote in her childhood town despite not living there. Serra did not receive a penalty as she voluntarily removed herself from the voter registry.
Will I be Seeing you at Yankee’s “Let Connecticut Work!” Conference?
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Your voice is vital! Reserve your spot today before seats are all filled!
- The Hon. Mark Boughton — Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Revenue Services
- Ken Coomes — Independent Sales Representative, Sue Merchant Services
- Senator Ryan Fazio (R-36th, Ranking – Energy & Technology and Planning & Development)
- Paul Formica — Owner, Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant and former state senator
- Jim Gildea — Director of Manufacturing, Bigelow Tea
- Rep. Maria Horn (D-64th, House Chair — Finance Committee)
- Andy Markowski — CT State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
- Michael O’Connor — Vice President, Millstone Power Station
- Robert Scinto — Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of R. D. Scinto, Inc.
- Jonathan Wharton, Ph.D. — Graduate School Associate Dean, Political Science SCSU
- Rep. Kerry Wood (D-29th, Chair — Insurance & Real Estate)
- The Hon. Themis Klarides — Former House Minority Leader, Connecticut General Assembly
- Network with state and fellow business leaders.
- Shape the debate on important issues that impact you and our state economy.
- Gain strength in numbers by fostering a new, solutions-based community.