State Sen. Rob Sampson. Yehyun Kim / CTMirror

My faith in the mainstream press survived decades of daily attention.  I knew most reporters were to my left, but I never held that against them.  We each have our ideology, which doesn’t much matter so long as journalists subscribe to a code of honesty and fair play.

My respect for the craft was reinforced by personal contact with reporters in Connecticut.  They retain in unspoken ways the sense of a guild, with standards and leaders.  No trade is perfect, but with very few exceptions I was impressed by the intelligence and even-handedness of the journalists I dealt with.

Joe Markley

Throughout my life, reportage has drifted left, but I still trusted in a professional commitment to fact.  Alas, much in this world that long weakened slowly has worsened fundamentally these last few years, journalistic codes I fear included.

The CT Mirror to my mind has been recklessly hostile to State Sen. Rob Sampson, who persistently and properly questions the impact changes in election law might have on ballot security.  In one news article this session, the Mirror reported that Sampson “made baseless claims of election fraud,” offering by way of evidence a link to an earlier Mirror article, which quotes no such claim by Sampson.

Questioned about this, the Mirror said that they ‘were good’ with their story—again without providing words from the senator’s mouth that might justify their satisfaction.

I have watched hours of Senator Sampson testifying without once hearing him accuse anyone of fraud.  During the 45-minute exchange with former Secretary of State Denise Merrill which seems to provide the basis for the Mirror’s contention, the senator said he had knowledge of two varieties of election irregularity:  erroneous absentee ballot applications received by more than a hundred of his constituents in the mail, and one case of a voter turned away at the polls, on the incorrect grounds that she had voted already by absentee ballot.

That this constituent was told she couldn’t vote is not in dispute.  An investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission (conducted so casually that they didn’t bother speaking to the voter herself) concluded no fraud was involved–but that wasn’t the senator’s contention, and the facts of the case were just as he presented them.

That there is fraud in elections can’t be denied; I can cite the convictions to prove it.  Senator Sampson serves on a committee charged with keeping our elections clean and reliable.  Key to that is reducing procedural disorder which invites both fraud and honest error, and that’s what the senator aimed to do.  Legislators who raise reasonable questions about the potential unintended and undesirable impact of bills should be applauded, whatever their party or perspective.

I never anticipated that the press would turn against those who challenge the status quo, but that’s how I read the Mirror’s inclination to use Senator Sampson’s willingness to stand on conviction and against the tide as an excuse to dismiss him.

Joe Markley is a former State Senator from Southington.