Connecticut officials urge vigilance for voter intimidation

October 15, 2020 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Democratic secretary of the state on Thursday urged vigilance for any intimidation of voters at polling places on Election Day.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill spoke at a news conference outside the state Capitol with Attorney General William Tong and Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor, who together issued a bulletin for local election officials that outlines laws against voter intimidation in Connecticut.

Merrill said they were not responding to any particular problems in Connecticut so far. Her office, she said, has been watching social media closely for any disinformation that might discourage people from voting, as well as any efforts to intimidate voters on Nov. 3.


“Tensions are running high and I just wanted to make sure that everyone understands that we are all working together and are on the job,” Merrill said.

Some Democrats have raised concerns about the state Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano’s call last week for volunteers to join the “Election Day Operation Army” for President Donald Trump “to ensure that everyone who is legally entitled to vote has an opportunity to vote, ONCE!” He said the goal was to place “smart and trusted volunteers” at every polling place in Connecticut.

Merrill said while Romano’s email to supporters contained “unfortunate wording,” she said that did not prompt Thursday’s news conference. Merrill said she was more concerned about crimes in other states, without providing examples.

Romano said there was nothing offensive in his request for volunteers of the kind enlisted by both parties. Asked if he expects acts of voter intimidation at the polls, Romano said, “there better not be. I wouldn’t tolerate that. No one should.”

In Connecticut, there are “unofficial checkers” appointed by the parties in advance of the election with permission of the local registrars of voters. Also so-called “challengers” appointed by the parties and approved by the registrars are allowed inside polling places. Under state law, they must have strong, reasonable grounds to challenge someone’s right to vote. Anyone else, other than the voters, are not allowed inside.

Tong, a Democrat, said he sees comments on social media that cast doubt about absentee balloting and the efficacy of the process as a form of voter suppression as well.