Blondin Says she
felt "disenfranchised" by in-person Goshen meeting
REPUBLICAN AMERICAN - LOCAL NEWS July 23, 2020
GOSHEN – First Selectman Robert P. Valentine on Tuesday defended the Board of Selectmen’s decision to hold an in-person town meeting at Goshen Center School on June 30.
Goshen resident Audrey Blondin, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, told Valentine during the board’s meeting she felt disenfranchised because she chose not to attend the meeting due to fear of COVID-19.
“My husband and I are over 65 and we choose not to go to anything indoors, and because the decision was made to hold the town meeting indoors, we were disenfranchised as voters,” Blondin said. “I hope you realize and recognize there is a disenfranchisement element that occurred and will continue to occur if meetings are held indoors.”
The town meeting, Blondin said, should have had a virtual option for residents who chose not to attend. Under the executive orders of Gov. Ned Lamont, however, there is no provision allowing municipalities to hold virtual town meetings, Valentine told Blondin.
“This is not ideal for anyone, but even without COVID-19, there are issues with disenfranchisement,” Valentine said, noting the 8 p.m. start for town meetings prevents some voters from attending. “By the very nature of the system, people are disenfranchised.”
The town meeting was held to elect a Goshen representative to the Region 6 Board of Education and to consider matters related to town-owned property on East Street North.
“The reality was that we had business to do and if we had to disenfranchise everyone because of some people, I don’t think that would have been fair,” Valentine said.
Before the meeting was scheduled, Valentine said he sought guidance from Torrington Area Health District and was assured the meeting could be held as long as social-distancing guidelines and other precautions were observed.
A crowd of more than 60 attended the meeting in the school gym. Those on hand were required to wear masks and had their temperature checked before entering the gym, where sneeze guards were in place at the registrars of voters tables, the doors were left open for ventilation, chairs were spaced 6 feet apart and the ceiling exhaust system was functioning.
“We took every precaution,” Valentine said. “I’d do it again tomorrow if I had to.”
Though the town can’t hold a virtual town meeting, Blondin said she’d be fine with being able to watch a meeting online even though she wouldn’t be able to vote.
“This is a situation where there should be an alternative,” she said.