Secretary of the state stresses importance of voting rights
Updated 5:44 pm, Saturday, October 14, 2017
WESTPORT — Connecticut’s secretary of the state offered a sober speech Wednesday night in which she insisted the greatest threat to voting rights today is, not fraudulent voting, but attempts by many Republican politicians to make voting more difficult.
Invited to speak to the local branch of Indivisible, a national organization formed to resist the President Donald Trump’s and Vice President Mike Pence’s political agenda, Denise Merrill addressed a large crowd in Westport’s Unitarian Universalist Church Oct. 12, an unusually warm and muggy night.
Merrill opened her speech with a mission: “To convince you that voting rights may matter more than any other issue you care about right now.”
A lifelong advocate for civic engagement, Merrill has become a fierce champion for voting rights in her capacity as Connecticut’s chief elections official and insisted, “The more people have access to the vote, the stronger our democracy is.”
The importance of voting, especially at the local level, was a message that resonated with the members of Indivisible Connecticut District 4.
“The key to change is changing who is making the decisions,” said Gail Berritt, a Westport resident and co-chairman of ICT4’s electioneers committee. “Voting is the foundation of democracy in America.”
Throughout her speech, Merrill repeatedly referenced the so-called “Kobach Commission,” a commission on electoral-integrity led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Merrill warned of a an “attack on voting rights, the likes of which we have not seen since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” She alleged that the voter-fraud commission has thus far incorrectly purged many states’ voter registration lists of legitimate voters. she added that would not happen in Connecticut, because she will not give the commission the state’s voter list.
“There’s very little evidence that there’s hordes of illegal people voting,” Merrill said. “If you’re an illegal alien, the last thing you’re going to do is expose yourself by voting.”
“Our problem is not that people are voting twice, but that people aren’t voting at all,” she added.
Merrill also confirmed Connecticut was one of 21 states that experienced a breach of the voter registration system at the hands of Russian hackers, but she said there was “never a breach of actual voting data.”
“Democracy dies in darkness,” Merrill warned at the end of her speech, referencing The Washington Post slogan, and encouraged attendees to get involved in local politics and run for office.