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SOTS Merrill’s Response To Reps’ Questions About Mail In Ballots

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Jun 082020
 

On June 3 we published a letter from State Reps Themis Klarides and Vincent Candelora to the Secretary of the State with questions regarding mail-in ballots.

Here is SOTS Denise Merrill’s detailed response:

Dear Representatives Klarides and Candelora

Thank you for your letter. I share your view that the right to vote is a fundamental right and the foundational basis of our democracy. Like you, I am also concerned about the administration of an election that will necessarily take place under challenging, virtually unprecedented circumstances. As you know, the COVID19 virus presents unique challenges to election administration. It is a highly communicable virus that passes via direct persontoperson contact, and disproportionally affects people over 65 and people with fairly common pre-existing health conditions (more here). This directly affects voters, poll workers, and local election officials alike, as it does the layout and operation of Election Day polling places and the availability of local election offices leading up to Election Day (we have shared the CDC polling place guidelines with local election officials and have used it to guide our planning. You can find it here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/community/election pollinglocations.html)

My staff and I worked hard to address these circumstances when we developed the plan for Connecticuts 2020 elections, and have worked with the leadership and the membership of ROVAC and the Town ClerksAssociation to determine what they need to hold safe and successful elections in August and in November. As I have said from the beginning of the crisis, the most important job of election administration in the face of the COVID19 crisis is to protect the health and safety of voters and poll workers, and to ensure that no voter has to choose between their health and their right to vote

The plan is available on my offices website, or directly at myvote.ct.gov/2020plan. The answers to the questions that you posed are below

Can you provide details regarding the cost implications of your plan to the state budget? Do you anticipate costs to the state that exceed those covered by the federal government

There is no cost implication of the 2020 election plan to the state budget. The plan is 100% paid for by the three tranches of federal funding we have received for both cybersecurity and COVID 19 relief (as I indicated in a letter to the legislative leadership of March 28, 2020, the CARES Act funding that was specifically granted to expand vote by mail options and to protect the health and safety of Election Day poll workers and voters has a 20% state match, roughly $1.08 million. The match must be met within two years, but there is still some uncertainty as to what will qualify for the match, and I and my fellow Secretaries of State from both parties have reached out to our respective congressional delegations to request that the match be lowered or even eliminated in the next round of COVID19 relief bills)

How will you choose the vendor to assist with the administration of the new ballot boxes? How will you determine which mail house to contract with to mail out the absentee ballots

The vendor we chose, American Security Cabinets (more about them here: https://americansecuritycabinets.com/), is an existing provider of secure dropboxes for elections with several California counties and other states that have more widespread use of voting by mail and already use secure dropboxes (NCSL has a list of the states that use secure ballot drop boxes here. Our main concern when we chose a vendor was to find someone with a track record in providing states with these secure drop boxes. As you know, existing Connecticut state contracting procedures allow Connecticut state agencies to do business with companies through the existing state contracts of other states

The mail house vendor is not yet finalized, but we are looking at vendors that have a track record of providing this service for states that are at least as big as Connecticut, and are already a Connecticut state contractor and/or are approved for state contracting in Connecticut via reciprocity from another states contract

Can you please describe the security procedures for the new ballot boxes? Hocan we ensure a proper chain of custody for the ballots deposited in these new boxes

The secure dropboxes are specifically designed for elections (more here and to meet Californias stringent ballot box design and security standards (those standards can be found here. They are designed to be permanently installed, just like a USPS mailbox, or a UPS/FedEx dropbox

The absentee ballots that are delivered via the secure dropbox will be considered a return by mail. Only the Town Clerk will have the keys to open the dropbox. The federal Department of Homeland Security/Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency promulgated Ballot Dropbox Guidance (can be found here that we will provide to the towns as well

What is the reasoning for utilizing ballot boxes when the United States Postal Service is available

Many voters who have voted by absentee ballot in the past have done so by physically dropping their ballots off in the Town Clerksoffice in their town. Unfortunately, Town Clerksoffices are currently largely closed, we do not yet know when they will reopen, and even when they do, some voters may feel trepidation at entering their town hall to deliver their ballots. The secure dropboxes will allow a contactless delivery of absentee ballots at town hall for those voters who would feel more comfortable delivering their absentee ballots by that method

Will absentee ballot applications be sent out to inactive voters

No. Only Active voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot, so absentee ballot applications will only be sent to Active voters. In order for an Inactive voter to vote by absentee ballot, they must first fill out a form to rejoin the Active voter roll

Do you intend to send absentee ballot applications to a targeted set of voters if so, what will the criteria be (i.e. age)

No, absentee ballots will be sent to all eligible, Active registered voters

Will municipalities be required to designate a machine for only absentee ballots

No, they will use current law to process absentee ballots. The tabulators will continue to provide separate totals for polling place ballots and absentee ballots, as they do in every election

When will absentee ballots be tallied on Election Day or as the ballots come in or nightly

The absentee ballots will be tabulated on Election Day

What is the screening process should a voter arrive in person at the polls on Election Day who has already voted by absentee ballot

The screening process is the same as it has been for prior elections as current law already addresses this situation (see Connecticut General Statutes Title 9, Section 140c. The Election Day checklist will be premarked with those voters whose absentee ballot is received prior to Election Day and those voters will not be allowed to vote in person. Any absentee ballot that arrives on Election Day is held until after 8:00 pm when the absentee ballot is compared to the official Election Day checklist; if the voter has appeared in person in a polling place, the absentee ballot is rejected

Will absentee ballots received after 8 PM on Election Day be counted

No, under Connecticut General Statutes Title 9, Section 140b, all absentee ballots must be received by 8:00 pm on Election Day in order to be counted

Please let me know if you have any other questions that come up. I am heartened by our ability to work together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that no Connecticut voter is prevented from voting due to the COVID19 pandemic and that no one is forced to choose between protecting their health and casting their ballot

Sincerely

Denise Merrill Connecticut Secretary of the State 

 

 

 

 

Dey Endorses DeBarba for State Representative 

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Jun 012020
 

Woodbridge Selectman, Joe Dey, has officially endorsed Republican candidate, Dan DeBarba, for state representative in the 114th district. Dey praised DeBarba’s background in healthcare and business as a major reason for his endorsement.

“During such uncertain times, we need someone like Dan who has extensive experience in handling healthcare crises. As a business owner, Dan has firsthand experience with the struggles of owning a business in Connecticut and I am confident he will fight to make our state more business-friendly.” Dey continued, “We have been very fortunate to have Themis representing our town for the last two decades. I fully expect Dan will continue in this tradition, advocating for Woodbridge and all of the 114th district.”

DeBarba is a longtime Orange resident, and his three children are graduates of Amity High School. DeBarba has served as a healthcare administrator at several hospitals in Connecticut and is currently the chief financial officer of a healthcare system in New York. Additionally, he and his wife own a small business in the area.

Klarides’ Statement On Awarding No-Bid CT Reopening Contract to Boston Firm

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May 142020
 

Following is a statement from Rep. Themis Klarides:

“The lack of transparency and blatant disregard for any public input or comment about critical government functions – the safety and health policies that must guide us in the coming months – is appalling. The people who run the businesses and are the backbone of our economy are the first people we should talk to, not out-of-state consultants who will earn millions telling us how to run our lives.

“And we learned of this development from the Lamont administration just after its chief public health official was fired.

“We have a 50-member ‘Reopen Connecticut’ council in place, most of whom are not subject to Freedom of Information Act statutes, and now we find out that the administration has awarded a $2 million no-bid contract to a Boston firm to carry out the work.

“Gov. Lamont, on one hand, preaches transparency and then conducts business behind closed doors without any consideration of FOIA laws. What else is going on that we don’t know about now, but may learn of in the near future?”

 

Wait, What? Klarides Announces She is Not Running in 2020

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Apr 212020
 

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, the first woman to lead the Republican caucus in Connecticut, and who has served for 22 years in the state legislature, today announced that she will not seek re-election for a 12th term in the General Assembly this November.

Klarides, elected in 1998, (R-114, Derby, Woodbridge, and Orange) said it was a combination of personal and professional considerations that led to her decision, one that she has agonized over for months.

“This is truly a citizen legislature and we are blessed to serve those that bestow their trust in us. I have tried to live up to those expectations every day for the last 22 years.

 “Times change and we have to move on and make decisions about balancing life and how we can best serve those that rely on us,’’ Klarides said. “This is the end of an extremely fulfilling and challenging chapter in my life. But anyone who knows me understands that my commitment to public service is ongoing. 

Klarides thanked all the current and former colleagues that she has served with, Republicans and Democrats. She is most proud on a statewide level of her support for taxpayer issues and opposition, most recently, to the implementation of tolls. Locally, her commitment to charities and non-profit organizations has been a priority.

Klarides said she will continue to work with her colleagues for the rest of the term in office to get the state back up and running. 

“Government must respond to those who need it most in this time of crisis: the workers who find themselves unemployed, our seniors and first responders who sacrifice daily. We must help them so that they, in turn, can care for their loved ones. I commit to continuing to work to find solutions and common ground that make sense for the taxpayers who ultimately will have to foot the bill,’’ Klarides said. 

She also cited some other accomplishments during her tenure in office:

  • The passage in 2017 of the bipartisan budget after a 10-month impasse that did not raise taxes and put in place significant spending and borrowing caps that stabilized the state budget;
  • Her longstanding commitment to women’s health issues and healthcare, including expanded insurance coverage of breast care treatment and awareness.
  • Support for victims’ rights, including domestic violence, drunk driving, and anti-voyeurism laws.

Klarides Calls on Gov. Lamont to Finally Release Fire School Funds

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Mar 042020
 

File photo from 2015 fire school session

With the debate on tolls over, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides today called on Gov. Lamont to make good on a 2018 campaign promise and finally release money he identified for a fire training school in Beacon Falls.

Klarides noted that in campaigning for governor Lamont came to the Naugatuck Valley and promised that if elected he would come through for the Naugatuck Valley and finally build the facility slated for Beacon Falls.

“It is appropriate now that the tolls issue has been concluded for the time being that the governor make good on his campaign promise and authorize the money,’’ Klarides said. “This is not about politics, this is about public safety.’’  

Lamont delayed acting on a bond package for municipalities and state projects while the tolls issue was being debated. The governor made clear he would not finalize a bond package until the tolls were dealt with. Last month he acknowledged that he could get the toll plan through the legislature and abandoned it after months of rancorous public debate.   

The long-delayed school was planned nearly two decades ago when officials first drew up a priority list of schools to build. The Valley Fire Chiefs Regional Fire School was identified but the $14 million authorized for construction was never finalized by the state Bond Commission. The facility was designed to serve 22 towns in the Greater Naugatuck Valley. Currently, firefighters train at a variety of sites around the state.

Klarides noted that local and state officials from both political parties have long advocated for the training school.

“As I have repeatedly said, this transcends political philosophy and party affiliation. This project has been on the books for almost 20 years and needs to be completed,’’ Klarides said.

  

Orange Board of Education Member Challenging Klarides

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Feb 222020
 

Mary Welander of Orange officially launched her candidacy on Saturday for State Representative in the 114th House District, serving the towns of Derby, Orange and Woodbridge. Mary enters the race with the goal of representing and fighting for comprehensive educational opportunities for our children, advancement for families, and stronger support for seniors in the district.

“For too long we have been waiting for someone to put our needs and priorities first, and it hasn’t happened,” said Welander. “Opportunities have been missed, families are being left behind, and people aren’t being helped. And that is what this is all about: helping people. It’s not about building up a name for yourself; it’s about building up our communities. The truth is that things aren’t going to get better for the everyday families in our communities until we have more people from those families involved in making the decisions that affect our everyday lives. We feel the effects; we should be part of the conversation.”

“Mary Welander is a dedicated community advocate who is committed to addressing the challenging issues in education, economic improvement, the environment, and a better quality of life for all our citizens.” said Paul Davis, former State Representative and Selectman, and current member of the Amity Board of Education. “Mary’s focus is on people, not politics.”

“Mary understands what our community is facing and is ready to work so that our families have the best chance for success in their futures,” said Beth Heller, First Selectwoman of Woodbridge. “Her commitment to our towns and real-life problem solving is clear and we look forward to Mary truly representing Woodbridge in Hartford.”

Mary is a member of the Orange Board of Education and currently serves as the Vice Chair of both the Finance and Personnel, Policy, and Transportation subcommittees. She is also Co-President of the Race Brook School PTA. Mary is an Ambassador for Connecticut for Sandy Hook Promise and regularly promotes education-based, common sense solutions for gun violence prevention programs both within the state and through bi-partisan outreach trips to Washington, DC. Mary has recently joined the team of Pirie Associates, an architecture, landscape, and interior design firm in New Haven committed to sustainable and equitable built environments.

Marc Garofalo, former Mayor of Derby, said, “Mary shows true commitment to bipartisan problem solving every day with her work on the Orange Board of Education. She has dedicated herself to making better futures for families in her town and I know she will do the same for the families of Derby.”

Mary and her husband Matt (a college professor, small business owner, and volunteer Scout leader), live in Orange with their three children and their dog, Bauer. These days Mary is often found at High Plains Community Center and other various pools cheering on their daughter and the rest of the ARAC Swim Team, or attending meetings for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or other various organizations she and her family are part of.

“My dedication to the Orange Board of Education will not change; serving on the board and working in a bi-partisan way to help our children is a huge honor for me,” Welander said. “My commitment to all of our towns hasn’t wavered, in fact it has grown. This district, my neighbors, our schools, and our state deserve someone who will do the work and fight for them. Problems aren’t solved by pointing fingers and I am tired of hearing the same arguments while nothing changes and families continue to struggle. Orange, Derby, and Woodbridge deserve more. I hope I can earn their trust and support.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Mary or her candidacy for State Representative can visit www.welanderforct.com or @welanderforct on Facebook.

 

Area Lawmakers Ask Gov. Lamont to Host a Toll Meeting in their Communities

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Jan 092020
 

Area lawmakers, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, Rep. David Labriola, Rep. Charles Ferraro, and Rep. Kathy Kennedy, sent a joint letter on Wednesday to Governor Ned Lamont asking him to host additional Town Hall Meetings about his CT2030 Transportation Plan that includes truck-only tolls.

Last week, it was uncovered that the Governor and Democratic lawmakers in Westport were preparing to host a secret meeting about the Governor’s transportation plan. The purpose of the secret meeting was to give anti-toll supporters as little notice as possible about the meeting. The governor and Democratic lawmakers announced this week that the rescheduled meeting in Westport will be open to the public.

In the joint letter to Governor Lamont, Republican lawmakers said, “Not unlike Westport, our districts are concerned about Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure and we would like to give our constituents an opportunity to learn
more and ask questions with regard to how CT 2030 will affect them. We believe a Town Hall could be beneficial to better understanding your proposals.”

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, added, “This is an opportunity for the public to finally learn of the details on the proposed toll system that have been sorely missing up to this point. We would welcome Gov. Lamont and officials from his administration to present their plan to our constituents.’’

For more information about CT2030 visit ct2030.com. Governor Ned Lamont has yet to make his updated toll plan available to the public.

Klarides’ Statement On October’s Regressive Grocery Tax

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Sep 192019
 

As a new tax on some food items was revealed, State Rep. Themis Klarides expressed her concerns with the plan and its eventual impact on many Connecticut households.

Here’s what she said:

On October 1st shoppers will be paying a 7.35% tax on some groceries, but not others. In the latest budget, the tax exemption for groceries was quietly altered. When some Democrats proposed raising the tax by one percent on meals at restaurants, they justified the increase as a luxury tax.

Eating out is a choice, and if people can afford to go to a restaurant, they should not feel the impact of a one percent tax on meals. When the language was drafted, however, they included “grocery stores” as one of the entities that sell meals subject to additional taxation.

Meals, unfortunately, is defined as all “food products which are furnished . . . in a form and in such portions that they are ready for immediate consumption.” Every food product, therefore, in a grocery
store is now subject to tax scrutiny.

So what foods at a grocery store are in a form that is immediately consumable? The Department of Revenue Service has issued a non-binding, advisory opinion which lists some examples, such as five or fewer muffins, donuts and bagels, salads in packaging 8 ounces or less, cans of soup, nutrition bars, cooked rack of ribs or rotisserie chickens, sandwiches, and popsicles.

Because this opinion is advisory only, grocery stores are left to determine what items will be subject to tax. With a possible tax audit over their shoulder, grocery stores are going to air on the side of caution and put a 7.35% sales tax on any items that might fall under this definition.

To add more confusion, if a shopper purchases any of these items along with sodas, bottled water or other beverages, those beverage items will now become taxable at 7.35% whereas if purchased alone, they’d be subject to no taxation.

Why? Because the new law taxes all “meals” sold by a “grocery store” “and spiritous, . . . soft drinks, sodas or beverages . . . in connection therewith.” So now the new taxation may impact other items in your cart because of something else in your cart.

Because this 7.35% tax on groceries targets small portioned food items, I am concerned for what this means for the people and families of Connecticut. What will be the impact on our senior citizens, empty-nesters and young men and women living alone? Over the last decade, Connecticut’s tax
policy has crept in to every moment of our daily lives and driven long time residents to move out of state. I share the public’s frustration with these regressive taxes and the government’s continued need for more of your hard earned tax dollars.

Please call your legislators and tell them exactly how these taxes will impact the lives of you and your family.

Orange Legislators Upcoming Office Hours With Constituents

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Jun 112019
 

State Reps. Themis Klarides (R-114), Charles Ferraro (R-117) and Kathy Kennedy (R-119) will host post-session office hours in Orange for constituents this Friday and next Monday.

The first event will take place at Chip’s Restaurant, 321 Boston Post Road, on Friday, June 14, from 8-9 a.m.

The second session will take place at the High Plains Community Center Cafeteria, 525 Orange Center Road on Monday, June 17 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

With the session ending June 5 at midnight, the legislators will go over the major issues debated in the 2019 legislative session, like the two-year state budget, tolls, the minimum wage increase, and any other issues constituents choose to discuss.

For anyone who is unable to attend but would like to talk to their state representatives, you can contact them at 1.800.842.1423 or send an e-mail to Themis.Klarides@housegop.ct.govCharles.Ferraro@housegop.ct.govKathy.Kennedy@housegop.ct.gov.

Klarides’ Statement Regarding The Removal Of The State Capitol Police Donated Flag

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Feb 212019
 

On behalf of the House Republican Caucus, we would like to make it clear that we stand with our State Capitol Police and support their donation of the handmade American Flag, created by one of their own officers. This flag is a source of pride and unity for not only our police unit here at the Capitol, but their families, and the families of those in law enforcement around the State of Connecticut.

This flag intended to honor the work, dedication, sacrifice, and lives of our past and present officers. To suggest that this American flag that was donated by the State Capitol Police is anything other than honorable is categorically false. The House Republican Caucus would like to publicly request that the American flag honoring our law enforcement officers here at the Capitol and throughout Connecticut be put back in its rightful and approved location, the Police Memorial Hall here at the Capitol.

This flag was approved by the Chief of Staff of each caucus, House, and Senate, Democrat and Republican. The flag hung in the memorial hall for two months before being removed yesterday. The placement of the flag was rightfully assigned to hang in the Police Memorial Hall as the 2019 contribution from State Capitol Police and we would like to see the flag promptly reinstated.                                                                                                                                                                                         

House Republican Caucus