Imagine registering to vote on Election Day.
The Government Administration and Elections Committee heard testimony Wednesday from several people who either support or oppose the Election Day Registration bill making its way through the legislative process.
The proposed bill would allow residents to go to the polls on Election Day and register as well as vote. People would no longer have to worry about making deadlines or registering a month prior to an election.
Jim Dean, whose brother Howard is the former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee, spoke in favor of the bill. Jim Dean is a Fairfield resident and chairman of Democracy for America. He said he travels all over the country helping people take responsibility for their political process.
Dean said the electoral process in Connecticut is a lot better than those in many other states, but it’s not perfect.
“People are mobile,” Dean said. “They have very little time for the registration process. Seven or eight states have registration on Election Day and it regulates diversity.”
Rep. David Labriola, R-Naugatuck, who has spent three terms on the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said he greets the bill with reservation. Labriola is concerned about “rampant” voter fraud.
“I fail to see the hardship to have someone register prior to Election Day,” Labriola said. Until he is certain the act dismisses any deception, he said he is opposed to it.
Dean said the biggest issue isn’t potential fraud, it’s in having adequately staffed polls. He said additional staff could eliminate fraud and make it easier for people to vote.
“Fraud happens,” Dean said. “If the staff is checking people in and technology is being used, this can all work very well.”
Between the 2000 and 2003 presidential primaries, Dean said he almost forgot to change his registration back to the Democratic Party so that he could vote for his brother. Dean explained that he had changed his party affiliation to Republican in 2000 so he could vote for U.S. Sen. John McCain in that presidential primary.
Dean, as someone who is involved in the electoral process, said that if he is missing a deadline, then others are as well.
“We need to make the system easier, not harder for people,” Dean said.
Saul Carlin, vice-president of Wesleyan University’s student body, supports the bill. However, he did propose one small change. He said instead of requiring everyone who wants to register and vote on the same day to go to one location, like the Town Hall in Middletown, he would like to see it implemented at every polling place.
For Wesleyan students, Town Hall is not easily accessible for pedestrians and those who don’t have access to transportation may not have one to two hours to take out of their schedule to vote, he said.
Several states in the U.S., including Iowa, Minnesota and Maine, offer some form of Election Day registration.
If the bill were to pass here, Carlin said the cost to the state would be minimal. He said Iowa spent less than $50,000 on the new act and most of the money was used to educate the state’s registrars-of-voters about the changes.
Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz supports the bill too.
Bysiewicz said that during the November election between 35,000 and 40,000 people cast provisional ballots. A provisional ballot gives a voter who was not registered to vote, or whose name is mistakenly omitted from the list of registered voters, the option to at least vote for a presidential candidate up until the time the polls close on Election Day.
She said the number of provisional ballots is proof that Connecticut can benefit from implementing an Election Day registration option.
If the state does adopt Election Day registration it will follow a process similar to that of presidential balloting, where voters are asked to vote in a central location within their voting district, she said.