Share this candidate profile:

Denise Merrill

Running for Secretary of the State

17 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating



Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Hartford

Current Job: Secretary of the State

Previous Job: House Majority Leader

Previous Job: State Legislator

Education: B.A. University of Connecticut

What would you do, if anything, to change the reporting requirements for Connecticut businesses?
The first thing an entrepreneur needs to do to start a new business is visit the Secretary of the State. The office also maintains the business registry for the state, and although it is designed to only collect limited information, it can be an important public resource. Because businesses start here and file annually with the office, we are in a strategically valuable position to communicate with businesses. Over the years I have shared information about state economic development programs and events sponsored by the US Department of Commerce that could help our local businesses thrive. A handful of businesses register with the local town clerks, which I believe should be aggregated at the state level so that we can have a full picture of business in our state. This will help us inform economic development strategies.
Should Connecticut amend its constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting?
In a democracy, the right to vote is fundamental. Our elections must be fair and accessible, and that’s why I have been a leading proponent of early voting. Thirty seven states and the District of Columbia offer voters either early voting or voting by mail. In fact, in the last presidential election more than 47 million Americans cast their ballots before Election Day. The time has come for Connecticut to adopt some form of early voting. This has been difficult to do so far because the state constitution must first be amended to remove the restrictive language that prevents us from passing legislation to expand voting options. I have proposed this amendment repeatedly and will continue to propose it as many times as necessary to bring this change to Connecticut voters.
Is same-day registration working or causing chaos in some towns? What can be done to ensure same-day registration doesn't compromise a town's ability to conduct a clean election day operation?
Since 2013, over 100,000 Connecticut voters have cast their ballot using the Election Day registration system. Before then, those citizens would have been disenfranchised because they missed a bureaucratic deadline. The best way to improve the Election Day registration process is to maximize voter registration opportunities in advance of Election Day. Since my office implemented online voter registration and automatic voter registration at the DMV there has been a surge in voter registrations. My office has provided technical assistance to local officials advising them on the design and staffing levels of their Election Day registration locations. We also passed legislative changes that leveraged the online voter registration system to streamline the EDR process. Improving the workflow in this way allows more voters to be successful before the 8:00 pm deadline.
Proponents of increased voter participation have suggested the Connecticut should amend its constitution to move Election Day from Tuesday to Saturday. Others have suggested legislation to create an Election Day holiday to give people the day off from work in order to vote, as is the custom in some other countries. What would you do, if anything, to improve voter participation?
The selection of our current Election Day dates back to a time when states held presidential elections at different times throughout a 30 day period. Selecting the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was designed to create a uniform date that did not interfere with religious observances, and accommodated farmers who often traveled many hours by horse and buggy to get to their polling place. This is not the world we live in today. Yes, I would support making Election Day a holiday, or moving it to a weekend as a way to make it easier for people to participate, or other similar proposals. However, we are also bound by the federal rules affecting the schedule for federal elections, which will limit some of our options.
Are people losing faith in our elections? If so, why, and what can Connecticut do to improve public faith in our election system?
This is a complicated question. Since the first realization that foreign powers were attempting to meddle and influence our presidential election, my greatest fear was the effect that it would have on citizens’ trust and faith in our democratic systems. My main concern is that it could sow the seeds of distrust. Not addressing the foreign interference would have an even worse effect on public trust. What I have found is that all of our election officials and government agencies have rallied together to share resources and expertise. Elections have always had security protocols, but we now have other stakeholders working in partnership with us. Together we evaluate our equipment, IT assets, and procedures with a new lens so they can be reinforced. I look forward to working with policymakers to propose new changes, informed by experts that can safeguard us from future interference and deepen the public’s faith in our elections.
Should the Secretary of the State have more authority to manage elections or is the current system adequate and effective?
Local officials play an important role in our elections, including managing the polling places and poll workers. They are in the best position to be responsive to the needs of their community. However, the Secretary of the State should have the necessary tools to ensure compliance with the laws and ensure that voters are well served.
Connecticut currently audits its elections by sampling a small portion of the results. Do we need to improve that process? If so, how?
The law requires that 5% of the polling places be audited after every election or primary. The process is one of the checks and balances we have to the tabulator machines used to tabulate the results, and we have a nearly flawless success rate. While there may be other ways to perform the post election audit, there’s no indication that it is a point of vulnerability that needs to be strengthened. I think there are other protocols that I would focus on that would be more effective in securing our elections.
There is concern that some voter databases in other states are vulnerable to hacking from outside forces. How will you ensure the security of the state’s voter database?
In Connecticut, voting machines are never connected to the internet. It’s important to understand that this is not about the technology used to tabulate your vote. Nonetheless, the threat of foreign interference in our elections is very real, and Connecticut’s cyberdefenses have already repelled a targeting by the Russian government in 2016. While our election cybersecurity infrastructure is strong, I am committed to making it even stronger so that we can stay ahead of any would-be hackers. Connecticut has been awarded $5 million in federal funds to invest in its election cybersecurity. These funds will be used to increase our IT resources and in training local election officials who are potential targets for hackers. I believe that enhancing our technology and the knowledge of the people who administer the elections is the strongest of strategies.