The widespread use of absentee ballots in the August primary election grew more certain Tuesday when another judge - the second to do so in two days – rejected an argument by four Republican candidates that expanded use of the ballots is illegal.
Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher rejected the central claim in a suit by the candidates that an emergency pandemic order by Gov. Ned Lamont expanding absentee ballot access is illegal because only the General Assembly has the authority to decide who can vote absentee.
The suit landed before Moukawsher Tuesday because a day earlier Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson dismissed the it on technical grounds, saying it had been improperly filed with that court.
After hearing an hour of argument by video conference, Moukawsher issued a brief order rejecting the contention that the governor, under the state Constitution, lacks the authority to expand or restrict the use of absentee ballots. He said a written opinion would be forthcoming.
Earlier this year Lamont postponed the primary to Aug. 11 because of public health concerns and, on May 20, issued an order that allows all that voters in good standing to vote absentee “for the August 11, 2020 primary election if he or she is unable to appear at his or her polling place during the hours of voting because of the sickness of COVID-19.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the state’s chief elections officer, interpreted the order to mean that anyone with any concern about contracting COVID-19 can vote by absentee ballot.
The Republican candidates, two running in the 1st District and two in the 2nd, said Merrill’‘s decision was premised on an unconstitutional order. They are part of a group called Fight Voter Fraud, which argues that widespread absentee voting puts elections at risk by increasing opportunities for fraud.
Hartford attorney Proloy Das, representing the congressional candidates, said they intend to appeal Moukawsher’s decision to the state Supreme Court, which they already asked to reconsider Robinson’s ruling against them earlier in the week.
And the Legislature was preparing to vote as early as Thursday to extend widespread absentee balloting to the general election in November. Expanded absentee voting in November will not be possible without legislative intervention because Lamont’s authority to issue executive orders under the COVID-19 emergency order expires in September.
Lamont, meanwhile was in Windsor Tuesday where he pressed the Legislature to act on absentee ballots, which his office called “a means of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic for the November general election.”
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