The State Elections Enforcement Commission reached a settlement with Secretary of the State (SOTS) Stephanie Thomas over the use of state resources to promote a 2022 constitutional amendment for early voting in Connecticut.
Thomas was elected to the secretary’s office in November 2022.
The original SEEC complaint was filed by Kevin Rennie, a columnist for The Hartford Courant who also runs a blog called Daily Ructions. He alleged that Mark Kohler, who was filling in for SOTS after Denise Merrill resigned in 2021, violated state regulations regarding the use of social media to promote passage of the early voting amendment.
“This commission, in taking its jurisdiction to investigate the matter, has relied on its authority to regulate ballot questions,” said William Smith, attorney for the SEEC. “In this instance, as alleged, there were a series of Twitter posts. The commission, therefore, using its standard for determining whether an expenditure to promote a ballot question had occurred, we applied the standard for advocacy and determined that the tweets in fact were promoting the support for the passage of the constitutional amendment and early voting that was on the ballot.”
The settlement includes no fine or civil penalty whatsoever.
Thomas "agrees that state statutes would prohibit her from expending state funds to advocate for electors to vote for or against a pending constitutional referendum question if a constitutional amendment was on the ballot in a future election."
The settlement acknowledges that "staff time and state equipment was used in producing and publishing the social media posts" but it downplays the infraction because the costs were "minimal".
“The commission points out it does not impact the secretary's speech itself, or state that she is otherwise prohibited from her authority to administer and to take a position on a constitutional amendment to the extent that she avoids using public funds to advocate while that amendment is pending,” Smith said.
The state plans to ask voters in 2024 whether they would approve an amendment to the state Constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee or mail-in balloting.
Republicans are obviously upset and disappointed with the settlement.
Former SOTS candidate Dominic Rapini said, "We see once again how one-party rule corrupts the integrity of our elected offices. Whether it's lack of criminal prosecution for voter fraud in Bridgeport or the abuse of elected office in Hartford, Democrats play the same old game, run out the clock and count on the unelected bureaucrats to give them a pass."
Mr. Rapini adds, "Stephanie Thomas owes the Connecticut voters an apology and must vow publicly not to interfere in the pending resolution to make no excuse absentee voting the law of the land. Especially in the wake of the chronic abuse of this privilege in Bridgeport, Stamford, Waterbury, and Harford. Abuses by Democrats of a process reserved for the infirm and those that serve our military."
Linda Szynkowicz, who runs Fight Voter Fraud, said, "all I can say is it's another white wash by the SEEC."
State Rep. Craig Fishbein, who is the House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member and a Member of the Public Safety Committee and Regulations Review Committee, simply tweeted this: