Oz Griebel, Chair of SAM-CT, Calls for Voter Participation Commission in Letter to Governor Lamont

Oz Griebel, Chair of SAM-CT, Calls for Voter Participation Commission in Letter to Governor Lamont

Griebel Outlines Reasons for Expanded Use of Absentee Ballots in June 2nd and November 3rd Elections Due to COVID-19 Pandemic and Urges Comprehensive Review of Vote-By-Mail Option for All Future Elections

Oz Griebel, Chair of the SAM-CT Task Force, yesterday wrote to Governor Ned Lamont to support Secretary of State Denise Merrill’s request that the governor issue an Executive Order to broaden the availability of absentee ballots for the June 2nd Presidential Primaries and “permit voters registered in one of the two major parties to participate in their party’s partisan primary without having to go to polling precincts during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Beyond that,” Griebel wrote, “we urge you to use the Executive Order process both to prepare for the expanded use of absentee ballots in the November 3rd election and to appoint a Voter Participation Commission to study the infrastructure and security needs as well as the fraud and abuse concerns that would surround expanding voter participation through a vote-by-mail option beyond the 2020 elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Commission would include experts in the equipment and operating systems needed to implement the vote by mail option and be led by individuals with statewide reputations for integrity and their ability to work for common sense solutions to challenging issues.

Griebel noted that a vote-by-mail option is currently in use in five states and said “we turn our immediate attention to supporting you and Secretary Merrill in the proposal to broaden the use of absentee ballots in the June 2nd Presidential primaries and the November 3rd election.”

Griebel said SAM-CT’s support is based on the inclusion in an Executive Order or Orders of three provisions “necessary to ensure voter confidence in the integrity of expanded voting by mail” as follows:

  • specify actions and protocols for both the June 2nd primaries and the November 3rd election sufficient to address the serious concerns of voter security and voter fraud which, if unaddressed, will undermine voter confidence in the results.
  • require a prompt and public review of the primaries and the election with respect to all relevant issues such as abuse, accuracy of tabulation, fraud, and the timing of publishing the results.
  • appointment of a Voter Participation Commission by May 15th empowered to conduct a review of the June 2nd primaries, if held, and to identify by August 1st any actions or protocols beyond those specified in the Executive Order relating to the June primaries that the Commission deems necessary to ensure the integrity of expanded use of the absentee ballot for the November 3rd election.

The SAM-CT Task Force is part of SAM (Serve America Movement), which is building a new kind of political party centered on candidate commitments to transparency, accountability, support for and the use of tried and true problem-solving processes.

“SAM-CT is focused on open public primaries, Ranked Choice Voting and term limits in Connecticut to increase competition among candidates and help ensure that voters have legitimate choices at the polls,” said Scott Muller, a SAM Founder and Board Member.  “Vote by mail is an option that will enable and encourage voter participation and properly executed is entirely appropriate.”

Earlier this year, the SAM-CT Task Force urged the Democrat and Republican parties to allow Connecticut’s more than 980,000 registered Unaffiliated voters to participate in the taxpayer funded Presidential Primaries.

“Following the Commission’s review of the November 3rd election and its recommendations, Connecticut can move forward with an informed Legislative and public debate regarding…. a reliable and secure vote-by-mail option for all future elections for Federal and State offices,” Griebel wrote.  He also offered the assistance of SAM-CT in the formation and work of the commission.

The full letter to Governor Lamont is below:

Dear Governor Lamont:  I write on behalf of the SAM CT Task Force in support of the request by Secretary of State Denise Merrill that you issue an Executive Order to broaden the availability of absentee ballots for the June 2nd Presidential Primaries and permit voters registered in one of the two major parties to participate in their party’s partisan primary without having to go to polling precincts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond that, we urge you to use the Executive Order process both to prepare for the expanded use of absentee ballots in the November 3rd election and to appoint a Voter Participation Commission to study the infrastructure and security needs as well as the fraud and abuse concerns that would surround expanding voter participation through a vote-by-mail option beyond the 2020 elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

 A vote-by-mail option is currently in use in five states. We at the SAM CT Task Force of SAM (the Serve America Movement) champion increased voter participation and strongly support your issuance of an Executive Order or Orders for both the June 2nd and November 3rd elections coupled with the appointment of the Voter Participation Commission described below and the steps necessary to prevent incidents of abuse and fraud.                                                 

 Everyone in Connecticut grieves during this trying time for those who endure the loss of loved ones or suffer the multitude of the coronavirus’s physical and economic ravages.  We also deeply admire and are profoundly grateful for the health professionals providing leadership and care amidst the crisis and for the many others putting themselves at considerable risk in providing public safety and other essential services.   

Notwithstanding the tragedy and turmoil of the pandemic, we must work together now to sustain our country’s single most important and enduring asset, the engagement of “we the people” in determining who holds our elected offices.  During the past year, the SAM CT Task Force has focused on open public primaries, ranked choice voting, and term limits in Connecticut to increase competition among candidates.  While we strongly believe that these reforms will help ensure that voters have legitimate choices at the polls, we turn our immediate attention to supporting you and Secretary Merrill in the proposal to broaden the use of absentee ballots in the June 2nd Presidential primaries and the November 3rd election.  Our support is based on the inclusion in an Executive Order or Orders of three provisions that we view as necessary to ensure voter confidence in the integrity of expanded voting by mail and to provide the basis for a legislatively approved and, if necessary, Constitutionally authorized vote-by-mail option in all future elections for Federal and State offices. 

The first essential provision is for the Executive Order(s) to specify actions and protocols for both the June 2nd  primaries and the November 3rd election sufficient to address the serious concerns of voter security and voter fraud which, if unaddressed, will undermine voter confidence in the results.  The second is for the Order(s) to require a prompt and public review of the primaries and the election with respect to all relevant issues such as abuse, accuracy of tabulation, fraud, and the timing of publishing the results. 

 The third provision is your appointment of a Voter Participation Commission by May 15th empowered to conduct a review of the June 2nd primaries, if held, and to identify by August 1st any actions or protocols beyond those specified in the Executive Order relating to the June primaries that the Commission deems necessary to ensure the integrity of expanded use of the absentee ballot for the November 3rd election.  The Commission would then be responsible for reviewing the results of the November 3rd election and identifying any different or additional actions and protocols needed for the adoption of a vote-by-mail option (as distinguished from an expansion of the use of the absentee ballot) for future elections. 

 The proposed Commission would be charged with specifying the costs and recommending the equipment and operating systems needed for the adoption of a secure and reliable vote-by-mail option for future elections.  Starting points for the latter include a review of the timelines prepared by the Federal Election Commission and a clear articulation of how Connecticut will use its $5.2 million share of the $400 million of CARES Act funding for the 2020 Federal Election cycle.  Those recommendations should also be based on an understanding of the equipment, operating systems, security, and anti-fraud and abuse protocols of the five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) that have adopted the vote-by-mail option as well as prior studies of the issues, such as the 2005 report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, that have identified concerns with the vote-by-mail option.  

The members of the Commission should include Secretary Merrill, the Chairs of the Democratic and Republican State Committees as the two political party representatives, one or more respected academics with election expertise, and appropriate civic and private sector representatives.  We also encourage you to appoint individuals who enjoy bipartisan respect, such as former Attorney General George Jepson and Senate Minority Leader Len Fassano, to co-chair the Commission to enhance broad support of the Commission’s recommendations and the likelihood of their implementation.

Following the Commission’s review of the November 3rd election and its recommendations, Connecticut can move forward with an informed Legislative and public debate regarding needed legislation and any Constitutional amendment that may be required to implement a reliable and secure vote-by-mail option for all future elections for Federal and State offices.  The combination of the vote-by-mail option with open public primaries, ranked-choice voting, and term limits will dramatically improve candidate competition, strengthen campaign debate on issues that matter to Connecticut residents, increase voter participation, and provide voters with genuine choice.

All of us on the SAM CT Task Force join the many other Connecticut residents who salute you and your Administration for your leadership and guidance during this unparalleled crisis and recognize that many things will change on the other side of COVID-19.  Expanding the use of the absentee ballot for all voters for the June 2nd and November 3rd elections will be an important building block towards lasting and constructive change, and, in that spirit, we urge you to issue the requisite Executive Order(s) with the three aforementioned provisions and appoint the proposed Commission by May 15th.

 The SAM CT Task Force stands ready to help in the formation and work of the Commission, and I am available at [email protected] or at 860-461-5421 to provide you and your colleagues any additional information and to respond to your questions.  We appreciate your consideration and extend our warmest wishes for good health to you, everyone in State government, and your families.