Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wasn’t at City Hall Friday, but the ghost of his words — about rigged elections and possibly refusing to accept the results if he doesn’t win the “rigged” Nov. 8 election — haunted the place.
Three elected officials banned together in a mid-morning press conference there to bust voter fraud ghosts and myths, and assure the state’s more than two million voters that the election will be tamper free.
For one thing, they said, there is very little evidence that voter fraud even occurs. For another thing, it’s hard to commit without getting caught.
“We are outraged” at Trump’s accusation of rigged elections, Mayor Toni Harp said on behalf of the hundreds of workers who are trained an sworn to dutifully administer elections and done so with integrity year after year. She called the allegations of a rigged election baseless.
“Any question about the validity of these local elections is an insult to all who work so hard to ensure accuracy and an attack at the very core of New Haven’s nature,” she added. “There have been insinuations that ‘certain areas are more prone to voting irregularities.’ Again with no substantiation. And those insinuations target minority voters who happen to be more densely concentrated in New Haven and other urban areas. As one of those minority voters I urge utter rejection of such talk, and such nonsense, and of those who insist upon repeating it.”
With just 18 days until the big showdown at the polls, political leaders across partisan lines have collectively raised their voices against allegations that the American voting system can be rigged.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro praised the state’s commitment to “fair and free elections,” pointing out that there are measure in place such as trained moderators of polling places, ballot checkers and checks of voting machines.
She said what voter suppression by intimidation occurs far more often than fraud.
“No state that has passed a strict voter ID law has been able to demonstrate or document and incidence of voter fraud,” she said. “These harmful laws are a misguided solution in search of a problem yet we hear today urban myths to paint a false picture of widespread voter fraud. Preposterous claims of a fixed election. And we know that it’s about undermining our election process. Claiming that our election process is rigged is an insult to our democracy.”
DeLauro said instead of focusing on allegations of voter fraud, the country should turn its attention to making sure that every citizen eligible to vote gets to do so. She is an original co-sponsor of a voter empowerment bill drafted by her colleague and civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten during the Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights. Their bill would modernize the voting registration systems, expand early voting, require the equitable distribution of polling places and equipment, and prohibit the challenging of registration status at polling places.
Also at Friday’s press conference, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said that one of the reasons that Connecticut has a safe process is because it relies on paper. While people can now register to vote online, they still have to come in person and fill the bubble next to their candidate. They also have to provide some form of identification at the polls. She said at nearly every point of the election process there is a system for checking to make sure that fraud does not occur. Also, the machine that scans your vote is not hooked into a computer connected to the Internet, further guarding against fraud.
“You can’t hack a system that is not connected in a any way, shape or form to the Internet,” she said.
The state’s voter registration database is connected to the internet. But only a limited number of election officials can even access it, Merrill. She said cyber attacks have occurred on such databases, but only two have been successful. They happened in Arizona and Illinois, but no information was manipulated. But to that end, Connecticut is one of the states participating in “cyber cleansing” by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Despite all of this, we’re on high alert,” she said. “We have several systems in place including a program with the Connecticut Bar Association that puts 100 attorneys on standby if anything should happen at the polls. Based on the conversation I have heard nationally what I am most concerned about is voter intimidation, not voter impersonation.”
Merrill urged people who have not registered to vote to do so by Nov. 1, which is the deadline for voting in person, online or by mail. The state has already seen a surge in new voters—100,000 since Jan. 1—and another 15,000 were pulled in in the last month when the Department of Motor Vehicles started offering voter registration. She said that the state has already approached its high watermark of 2008. And there’s still time to register.
Anyone who misses that deadline in New Haven but still plans to participate in the election would have to do same-day voter registration down at City Hall. Mayor Harp urged those who do so on Election Day to arrive at City Hall early. During the last gubernatorial election City Hall was overrun with same day voters, a number of which had to leave the polls without casting a vote because they had not had the opportunity to register before the polls closed.
Harp said City Hall will be properly staffed and ready for a crowd, but “when the polls close, they close.”