With 90 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon, 441,469 — or 53 percent — voted “no” on the ballot question, outnumbering the 395,309 — or 47 percent — who voted “yes.” Final figures were not available as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Had it passed, the amendment would have given the legislature the authority to pass laws that would allow “no excuse” absentee voting, or allowing polls to be open on the Saturday before elections.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, advocates said changing the Constitution could increase voter turnout by allowing people to vote early and make voting more accessible. Opponents feared the change would lead to voter fraud and endanger the state’s election process.
With the amendment’s defeat, current restrictions will stand: absentee voting is allowed only when a voter is sick on Election Day, outside the district, serving in the military, or has a religious obligation that keeps him or her from the polls.
Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford, was among those who opposed the measure and said Wednesday he was glad voters defeated it.
“Tinkering with the Constitution is dangerous business and the proposal would have opened the door to a variety of voting schemes, many of which could have led to fraud and even outright stealing of elections,” he said.
The amendment left too many unanswered questions about how absentee voting would occur, he said. It gave lawmakers the authority to pass laws making it easier to absentee vote, but it did not specify how the voting would take place, whether online or by other means, he said.
Voters typically are hesitant to alter the state constitution, Labriola said, “particularly when it’s not delineated what exactly would be the new system. The integrity of our election system goes to the very heart of our democracy.”
The ballot question was worded this way: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”
One proponent for the amendment’s passage in recent months was Common Cause. On Wednesday, Common Cause Executive Director Cheri Quickmire declined to comment on the defeat, saying she wanted to see a geographic breakdown of the final vote tally before analyzing why it failed.
Other than New Haven, where “yes” votes outnumbered “no” votes more than 2-to-1, it was not yet clear how the question fared in other cities and towns. In New Haven the ballot question received 12,007 yes votes to 5,320 no votes, according to a tally by the New Haven Independent.
Quickmire said Wednesday that Common Cause struggled to get the word out about the ballot question as Election Day neared. It was a grassroots effort with a limited budget, she said.
Among state officials and lawmakers, Democrats largely supported the measure while Republicans were against it. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat who was re-elected Tuesday, supported the amendment, as did Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who also was re-elected. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley has said he supports the idea of no-excuse absentee voting but didn’t support this particular amendment because it gave too much leeway to the legislature.
Merrill said she was disappointed it didn’t pass and she’s not exactly sure why it didn’t pass.
“I’ve heard several theories and I can understand why people said it was confusing language,” Merrill said Wednesday. “There was not a particular idea being put forward, it was just ‘let’s take this language out’.”
There also wasn’t much attention paid to it, Merrill said.
“Perhaps, people just missed it,” Merrill said.
However, she admitted that it’s possible people just didn’t want it.
“I have to consider that as a possibility,” she said.
Christine Stuart contributed to this report.