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As CT holds election security drill, some residents skeptical in light of voting fraud charges

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas (left) and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont talk with the press after the state held its first election security drill, June 12, 2024.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas (left) and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont talk with the press after the state held its first election security drill, June 12, 2024.

Suppose someone spreads rumors about the upcoming presidential election. That’s what state officials such as Gov. Ned Lamont said they thought about as the state held its first election security drill at the state armory in Hartford on Wednesday.

“We just went through an exercise where somebody says there is white powder found near a voting site; that discourages people,” Lamont said.

Lamont and officials such as Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas and Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Deputy Commissioner Brenda Bergeron said the drill ran through a series of real-world scenarios, including cyber attacks which could impact the electoral process.

But while state officials say residents can feel confident about the integrity of the upcoming November elections, some residents — especially Bridgeport residents who voted in a mayoral primary and election tarnished by accusations of ballot fraud — say the drill doesn’t address key issues.

Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox lives in Trumbull and is now running for State Sen. Marilyn Moore’s seat, which represents parts of Bridgeport. Gadkar-Wilcox said while the drill is a step in the right direction, more could be done to help residents trust the electoral process.

“If you're going to have oversight over election fraud and absentee ballot abuse, there has to be investigative power, there has to be enforcement power, there have to be more penalties,” Gadkar-Wilcox said.

She referred to the ongoing investigation over electoral misconduct in Bridgeport, which resulted in several arrests over alleged absentee ballot fraud.

According to a four-part series by Connecticut Public on political dysfunction in Bridgeport, In Absentia, several campaign volunteers associated with current Mayor Joe Ganim’s campaign are alleged to have delivered absentee ballots, which is illegal.

Officials downplayed connections to the ongoing investigations and said the results, which they did not disclose in detail citing security concerns, made them feel confident about the robustness of the security apparatus in place to safeguard the election.

The state recently passed a bill improving security measures at absentee ballot boxes, including mandating video recordings of the ballot boxes and mandating that they be made available to the public.

Bridgeport residents like Callie Heillman, the co-director of Bridgeport Generation Now Votes, a voter outreach group, said the drill is important, citing continued threats against the election which played out in 2020 culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot that left several dead, the result of then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to impede the electoral process.

What happened in Bridgeport is different, she said, due to the local political culture which exploits the use of absentee ballots. But according to her, while Trump and current Mayor Joe Ganim are not similar, they do have one thing in common.

“The motivation behind them is the same, and it's to hang on to power,” she said.

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