In August 1920, the Women's Suffrage movement ended resulting in a woman's right to vote. Nearly a century later, Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) spoke to the Darien League of Women Voters on the importance of voting and how legislation is threatening those rights.

"Gov. Malloy will speak about the importance of voting and what is being done in our state to encourage voter registration," Gwen Mogenson, co-president of the League, said to the packed Darien Country Club room on Sept. 18.

Malloy took the podium just eight hours after returning from China, where he was trying to boost economic investment and cooperation with Connecticut.

"Voting is pretty darn important," he said. "It's what we fought wars for."

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But lately, Malloy thinks the idea of voting has been "turned on its head."

He explailned that 19 states have passed legislation prohibiting residents from voting without a drivers license, adding that two states passed the measure by executive order.

"What's happened in America on too many issues is we make really stupid, short-term decisions for political purposes that have long-term implications that are very, very destructive," Malloy said.

He spoke of the upcoming presidential election, which he expects to be close, underscoring the importance of the right to vote.

"If Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania, the state that elected a Republican Governor and Republican legislature for the first time in many many years, by 10,000 votes or 20,000 votes or 50,000 votes, and the law that was enacted by that legislature and signed by that governor has the potential of denying 720,000 people the right vote, then we might very well tear our political fabric asunder," Malloy said, adding, "The idea that you can use a gun permit to prove that you're a voter in Texas, but not a state-issued identification at your college is quite telling."

Malloy believes a handful of states will determine this election, and he fears that the election will be so close that laws preventing people from voting will decide the election.

"My great fear is this election will be so close it's not who voted that decided the election, it was who was prevented on the day of voting that decides the election," Malloy said.

Malloy spoke of urban areas and the elderly -- two groups that may not have drivers licenses because they rely on public transportation or do not drive at all. He spoke of Texas and its gun permit law, and Wisconsin which he said has a lack of Department of Motor Vehicle Offices in the state. Wisconsin will not accept a student ID. Only the identification issued by the Wisconsin department of transportation, a military ID, a passport, naturalization papers or an ID from a federally recognized tribal nation will be accepted.

"As we get closer to these elections, think about Pennsylvania, think about Wisconsin, think about what is attempting to be done for political purpose. In Connecticut we want to expand the opportunity to vote, we want to make it easier to vote, we want to give you more days to vote on. We are flying exactly in the opposite direction of what almost every other state has done in the past year," Malloy said, adding that there's nothing more fundamental than voting.

Malloy thinks the most disturbing part of it is men and women in their 90s who have voted all their lives are being denied that opportunity.

Gail Janidge, a Bridgeport woman, asked why there were no polling places right on the campuses of state universities.

"I hadn't thought about it, to be honest," Malloy said. "Expanding voting to more than Election Day in this day and age makes too much sense not to do it. I hadn't thought about, but I will."

Former Selectman Callie Sullivan also had a question for the governor.

"If this election was that close, would we question the results? Would we go to the supreme court?" Sullivan asked.

"No, I think what somebody like me is worried about will eventually happen. An election will have been stolen, and it will have been done by operation of law," Malloy said.

Malloy ended his speech by saying "somebody has to care about democracy. I'm not talking about a Republican version of democracy or a Democratic version of democracy. I'm talking about someone who simply makes it their calling to argue what we all fundamentally know: that we should have a voting process that is fair, that avoids fraud, but we should never have a voting process that by its design would prevent people from voting. I'm hopeful that we'll avoid my nightmare scenario. I don't want to see my nation torn apart over this kind of stuff. The idea that we would deny 270,000 people in Pennsylvania the right to vote makes no sense at all."

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; @megdariennews