A resolution to amend the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee ballots cleared its second hurdle Wednesday when it passed the Senate 21-14. It passed the House on April 4, but did not receive enough support to immediately be placed on November’s ballot.
The amendment will have to be passed again by next year’s General Assembly before it can be placed on the ballot in the first statewide election in 2014.
Proponents of the resolution said society has changed since the constitution was last revisited and voting laws need to be modernized.
“People should not have to choose between their life obligations and their right to vote. That’s not a fair choice,” Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said. “This resolution starts the conversation about a possible change to our constitution that would increase voter participation by making it easier for people to cast a ballot.”
But Republican lawmakers claimed the no-excuse absentee ballot portion of the resolution was a red herring.
They said the resolution opens the door to giving the legislature the power to change election laws and allow for things such as Saturday voting or voting online.
Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said state’s forefathers wisely decided that election law should remain part of the state constitution.
“I don’t believe we should lower the bar and drop this protection, if you will, from the state constitution,” he said.
Sen. Scott Franz, R-Greenwich, agreed.
“Changing the constitution is a big deal,” he said. “It should be done methodically. It should be done slowly and with a great deal of debate.”
But the move was praised by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
“We now have a three-step process in place for changing the constitution of our state to allow Connecticut voters to cast their ballots in a way that works better with their busy mobile lives, and we have taken the major first step,” Merrill said.
“I look forward to raising this resolution again next year and giving the citizens of Connecticut the power to modernize our elections.”