$500K Grant to Improve Election Administration in Greenwich Under Attack

Newsletter Volume 1 • Number 28

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Opponents demand a do-over

A meeting to vote on whether to accept a $500,000 grant to improve election administration and infrastructure in Town erupted in chaos when opponents challenged the result of the vote, which was narrowly in favor of accepting the grant, and demanded a do-over. 

The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voted 104-101 to allow the Town’s registrars to accept the grant. The final outcome remains in limbo. 

Local Republicans have been waging a pitched battle to prevent the Town from accepting the $500,000 grant from the nonpartisan Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grant was awarded to the Town’s two elected Registrars of Voters —Republican Fred DeCaro and Democrat Mary Hegarty—who worked tirelessly to dispel accusations that the grant would be used to influence election outcomes.

The funding is especially important for adopting new procedures for early voting in Connecticut, which were approved overwhelmingly by voters in a November ballot measure. 

Public-private partnerships are nothing new 

Greenwich’s Republican-controlled finance board, the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), relies heavily on public-private partnerships to pay for essential town services such as our volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders. 

The BET has imposed a “level-services” budget for the last three years, which does not allow for any increases in operating costs for Town Departments. That is why a grant such as this is essential. 

Despite their support for public-private partnerships, some 

local Republicans went out of their way to reject this grant, recruiting outside forces to lobby our local elected representatives. Lawyers for the Republican National Committee provided talking points, Trump-backed Senate candidate Leora Levy individually lobbied members of the RTM, and former state Representative Kimberly Fiorello served as an intermediary between the local party and national Republican groups. 

One opponent of the grant, Allyson Cowin, invited Scott Walter of the Capital Research Center to provide an “information session” to Greenwich RTM members about the grant. The Capital Research Center, a D.C.-based organization is funded by the Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil and other conservative donors, and focuses on monitoring the activities of “unions, environmentalist groups, and a wide variety of nonprofit and activist organizations” according to its website.  Walter, who lives in Virginia, also published a letter to the editor in the Greenwich Free Press repeating debunked conspiracy theories about voter fraud and urging our RTM to reject this grant.

During Walter’s information session, opponent Betsy McCaughey worried that the grant might be used to increase voter participation in Greenwich. 

“It seems to me when they talk about training…what they’re really talking about is getting local people to go into parts of Greenwich where maybe underrepresented voters seem to live, how to appeal to them ahead of time, drive them to the polls, get them to fill out mail in ballots, expand the use of mail in ballots,” Mcaughey said. “You are correct,” the presenter, Scott Walter replied. 

And therein lies the rub: Although these grants are directed not toward increasing voter turnout, but to upgrading basic equipment of a physical, technological, or human resource-based need, the GOP continues to fear that any improvement will increase voter access. 

Republican National Committee talking points

At the RTM meeting, Republican opponents leaned on talking points provided by RNC lawyers and the Capital Research Center, arguing that the grant should be rejected to dispel even the “appearance” of impropriety, so that voters could have full confidence in the election process. 

Yet it is the Republican party that has determinedly undermined confidence in the electoral process for years by arguing that any election that Donald Trump loses is rigged. By that logic, it follows that losing a local RTM vote such as this one would also somehow be questionable.

Another inconvenient fact is that in 2020 the RTM approved a grant from the same organization, which passed without any controversy. 

The only difference between the request in 2020 and the furor over the grant this week is the changed composition of the Republican Town Committee, which, in its current form, has openly embraced the Big Lie and conspiracies about voter fraud. 

What you can do.

This story is a great example of the type of important decisions the RTM makes for our Town. If you are interested in bringing balance to our Town government, please consider running for the RTM this November. Find more information about the RTM here: https://www.greenwichct.gov/1447/About-the-RTM

For Your Calendar

January 24: CT League of Conservation Voters, annual summit. Every year, the CTLCV Education Fund hosts the Environmental Summit to bring together lawmakers, advocates, policy experts, and the public for informational briefings on the key environmental issues that advocates are proposing for the 2023 legislative session. 9:30am – 3:30pm at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford. To register and for details, click here

January 31: A farmer’s perspective on food and climate change. This informative discussion will explore Connecticut’s food system from the perspective of farmer and food justice advocate Steve Munno, Farm Manager of the Massaro Community Farm. Brought to you by the The Greenwich Sustainability Committee January 31, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Coffee for Good: 48 Maple Avenue, Greenwich.

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