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The Plague Of Absentee Ballots, Reforming The Democratic Town Committee

August 31st, 2017 · 9 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, City Politics, News and Events

The social action group Bridgeport Generation Now, in advance of its City Council candidate forum Wednesday at the Bijou Theater, shares its latest research and policy recommendations focused on democratic empowerment. What could that be? Reforming absentee ballot process and the Democratic Town Committee.

Generation Now is home to new community insurgents including an infusion of young people espousing transparency, inclusiveness and election reforms. Do they have staying power? That’s always the question with a new organization. Check out the group’s position on absentee ballots and the Bridgeport DTC.

Absentee Ballots

Absentee ballots, when used properly, actually serve an important role in making sure all citizens’ voices are heard and their votes are counted! Absentee ballots enfranchise people who have difficulty getting to the polls on election day. According to the Secretary of the State’s Office, there are six legitimate reasons why someone votes by absentee ballot.

If any of these six reasons apply to you, you might need to vote by absentee ballot. In order to do this, you must fill out an application for an absentee ballot. Absentee Ballot Applications are publicly available on the Town Clerk’s page on the City Website at www.bridgeportct.gov.

Once your application is received and accepted by the Town Clerk, your absentee ballot will be mailed to you. The Town Clerk mails out absentee ballots on a rolling basis starting three weeks ahead of any election. You, the voter, then must complete your ballot at home and mail it back into the Town Clerk.

So why are Absentee Ballots such a problem in Bridgeport? And why are political campaigns often involved?

Core Members Niels Heilmann and Adhlere Coffy looked into Bridgeport’s long and sordid history with Absentee Ballot abuse. Through their research, they propose some concrete steps we as a city can take to stop the fraudulent and suppressive practices.


Absentee Ballots Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for Political Campaigns, Registrar of Voters, and State Delegation:

We need better local educational efforts. There are several locations in Bridgeport that receive a heavy concentration of absentee ballots. Citizens might not know the rules governing absentee ballots. Voting by Absentee Ballot might also be the only way they know how to vote. They also might be afraid of losing their housing if they vote the “wrong way.” This lack of information causes confusion that can be preyed upon. Educational efforts by the Registrar of Voters should be focused on the areas of high absentee ballot concentration, such as elderly and assisted living facilities, and public housing, and could be in the form of a website, posters on the rules of absentee ballots, lectures, and seminars.
We need outside observation and monitoring. Given the history of hard evidence of absentee ballot issues in Bridgeport, we should call for outside parties to monitor the use of absentee ballots in our elections, such as:
• League of Women Voters or other fair election groups
• State of CT SOTS or SEEC

We need rule changes at the state level. Initiatives can level the playing field and take the power out of the hands of political operatives, with maximum enfranchisement including:
• Allowing early voting. According to Vote.org, “Most states offer early voting at this point.”
• Allowing “convenience” or “no excuse” absentee balloting.

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
City Council Members openly discussed Bridgeport’s problems with Absentee Ballot fraud and agreed there needs to be better supervision and education.

Democratic Town Committee
Many people want to know, what is a Town Committee?

The function of a Town Committee is to build and maintain the social movement of political campaigns. According to this training manual from the Maine Green Independent Party, a Town Committee helps grow a political party as an institution by maintaining voter and volunteer information and growing membership. It also builds the foundation for future election victories. Ideally, a Town Committee is driven by the ideas and issues of that political party.

In Bridgeport, we have a Democratic Town Committee. We also have a Republican Town Committee. The primary role of these organizations is endorsing candidates for public office, conducting party business, electing a chairperson and raising money.

If you are a registered Democrat or Republican, you actually elect the members of the Town Committee. There are nine people in every voting district on the Democratic Town Committee and seven people on the Republican Town Committee. We have ten voting districts, so there are 90 DTC members and 70 RTC members total!

We have a lot of registered Democrats in Bridgeport. According to a 2016 article in the CT Post, 68.5% of all active voters in Bridgeport are Democrats. So ideally, the Democratic Town Committee should be a robust, civic institution that drives policy ideas and issue platforms and turns out the best candidates.

Core Members Dayna Lindo, Melanie Jackson, and Gage Frank researched this local organization and discovered that the Democratic Town Committee is not an open, “democratic” (little d) institution. Their research shows a critical need for reforms that will make the DTC accountable to the public, and put issues and ideas ahead of personal gain.


Democratic Town Committee Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for citizens and local and state officials:

If you are a member of the Democratic Party, you should run for Town Committee in your district! Getting new people involved will help the institution focus on new ideas and new energy.

The DTC should create a website and publicly post all district meetings–including the locations, agendas and minutes.

The DTC should promote and represent Democratic (big D) ideals and policies. Tell us what you stand for and why! The DTC should commit to nurturing and growing candidates who stand for ideas and good policies, and not just for their own personal gain.

For our State Delegation: Research and analyze the trend of unaffiliated voters in Bridgeport and Connecticut. Craft legislation that could allow Bridgeport to hold open primaries to dilute the monopoly by political parties. Read this “Open Primaries: Pro Vs. Con” Paper from the League of Women Voters, Tennessee.

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)

City Council Members openly discussed that patronage might be a problem. They agreed that the DTC could be more open and encouraged everyone to come to committee meetings.



9 Comments so far ↓

  • Grin Ripper

    Domino Effect Redux!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    “The DTC should promote and represent Democratic (big D) ideals and policies. Tell us what you stand for and why! The DTC should commit to nurturing and growing candidates who stand for ideas and good policies, and not just for their own personal gain.”

    Really? No shit. The Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee is not an inherently corrupt organization. Many though not all of the members are decent people manipulated by the few. The DTC’s leadership is responsible for a large number of patronage jobs on the city payroll, positions filled for political reasons. Qualification is not a consideration. This is an open secret. Mayor Ganim struggles to produce a balanced budget that includes no tax increases. How about doing the right thing for the people of the city of Bridgeport by eliminating the patronage hires and no-show jobs? All of those include healthcare and pension benefits that cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, if not millions. The city cannot afford to support the incompetents that owe their livelihoods to Don Mario. 

    • John Marshall Lee

      Dear Bridgeport Kid,
      “Mayor Ganim struggles to produce a balanced budget that includes no tax increases.” That is a statement you made above. Where do you see evidence of that in the activity of the City at budget time? In the absence of stated priorities by the Mayor when he presents the budget to the Council? In the recitation of system indicators with each department budget that show now real evidence of monitoring or discussion as to the quality and quantity of department services over a period of years?
      And finally, in a day of Presidential “twitter” and more than a decade since Finance Department could send budget information to Council members on the Budget & Appropriations Committee, is there any reason that ED ADAMS INTEGRITY OFFICE supporting Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest process and governance, does not provide the same data to the taxpaying public at the same time?? Imagine what could happen if the taxpayers saw departmental expenses through the year and variances from budget and were able to report observations to a real INTEGRITY OFFICE?
      Finally, imagine what would happen if Finance Director Flatto continued the short term practice of Ann Kelly Lenz of the Finch regime, and provided a FINAL, POST-AUDIT FINANCIAL REPORT FOR JUNE OF EACH FISCAL YEAR WITH ALL EXPENSE LINE ITEMS SHOWING AS WELL AS ALL REVENUE LINE ITEMS. Look for the official variances then? You would see a Legislative Department that hoards its own Other Services expense line item though it does not spend such of that in the past decade, rather than cutting their budget? Belt tightening for balanced budget by Ganim2 or anyone else? Hogwash? Time will tell.

  • John Marshall Lee

    “no” real evidence rather than “now”

  • Bob Walsh

    No excuse absentee voting would be a disaster in Bridgeport.
    If elections are stolen now, just think of what would happen if any threat of punishment were removed.
    The turnout percentage would skyrocket to 105%.
    But early voting would be an excellent way to combat this problem.
    Allow for sufficient time before to vote early. Allow for the weekend to vote early. The voters spoke and said no to no excuse absentee ballots so lets try early voting and see if that will be approved.

  • barry soitera

    Dead people vote Democrat!

  • Frank Gyure

    There will be no change whatsoever unless we change the composition of the City Council in November 2017 and the DTC in Spring 2018. This is a longer term process.

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