Connecticut residents soon may be able to register to vote on Election Day, if a bill advanced by the Government Administration and Elections Committee Wednesday continues to win support.
The bill was approved by a vote of 11 to 4, and fell mostly along party lines with the exception of Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich.
Election Day registration has been debated in the capitol for years. In 2003 the bill made it through both the House and the Senate, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. John G. Rowland.
It again reached the House floor in both 2007 and 2009, and Wednesday’s vote will mark the fourth time in a decade that lawmakers have attempted to pass the controversial measure.
This year’s version of the bill received support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, as well as Secretary of State Denise Merrill, who proposed it along with other voting reforms on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
In written testimony submitted to the committee, Malloy said the bill would align Connecticut’s voting practices with the 21st century.
“While states around the nation are engaged in ways to suppress voter turnout and restrict access to the polls, together we can lead the charge to fairer, more robust electoral turnout for the citizens of Connecticut,” he said.
The bill also received strong support from Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, one of the co-chairs of the committee.
Opponents of the bill, essentially the committee’s Republicans, cited voter fraud and and possible compromises of “ballot integrity” as primary reasons for opposing the bill.
Republicans proposed two amendments, one requiring photo ID for same-day registration, and another requiring ballots cast by same-day registrants to be treated as provisional ballots. The second amendment would have required those ballots to go through a two week verification procedure before being counted.
Photo ID is not required to register to vote, or to cast a ballot.
Rep. David Labriola, R-Naugatuck, referenced past instances of voter fraud in Waterbury and nationally by ACORN, though factcheck.org notes that ACORN has never been charged with casting false ballots, rather falsely registering voters.
The amendment requiring photo identification for election-day registrants received harsh criticism from Slossberg.
She said that voters in cities, primarily minorities, as well as senior citizens often don’t have photo IDs like drivers’ licenses.
“Between 10 and 25 percent of our population does not have photo ID. That’s a huge number of people. … Most people have a photo ID, but voting is not for ‘most people.’ It’s for every citizen who has the legitimate right to vote,” she said.
In written testimony from a March 2 public hearing on the matter, Daria Hart, the Democratic registrar of voters in New Hartford, cited research from the Brennan Center for Justice that showed that states that have election day registration have between a 5 and 7 percent increase in voter turnout with no apparent increase in voter fraud.
Matthew Waggner, the Democratic registrar from Fairfield, also testified in support of the bill.
But Registrars in the state, according to the vice-president of their association, are “deeply divided” on the issue.
Melissa Russell, of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, told lawmakers that the division primarily centered around three concerns: cost, logistics, and integrity.
She said that at a 2010 annual meeting, the majority of members were opposed to any form of Election Day registration.
Floren, the sole Republican supporting the bill, said she would still support Election Day registration, despite being disappointed that the committee didn’t take ballot integrity “more seriously.”
Both amendments were defeated.
Currently, nine states have some form of Election Day registration.
It is unclear the level of support the bill has in the House and Senate..