HARTFORD, CT — There was an audible groan from the Republican side of the House chamber Wednesday when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced plans to study whether Connecticut should allow voting by mail. He also said he will try again to pass early voting.
“Let us not waste a moment in our effort to make voting easier and more accessible,” Malloy said Wednesday during his speech to the General Assembly. “Let’s plan ahead. Let’s look at best practices around the nation for increasing voter participation.”
In an effort to get the dialogue going, Malloy signed an executive order that would study the issue of “vote by mail.”
According to a 2016 survey of American Elections by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 24 percent of Americans voted by mail that year.
At least 22 states have provisions to conduct some elections entirely by mail, according to the executive order. States such as Colorado Oregon and Washington vote only by mail, and California and Arizona residents cast a majority of their votes by mail.
“Voting by mail is likely to reduce time spent waiting in voting lines and lower the burdens and costs for local registrars and election workers on Election Day, making it easier for more people to cast their votes with convenience and in privacy,” Malloy’s executive order states.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has testified that 37 states have early voting.
In order to change when voters can vote in Connecticut, voters would first have to agree to change the constitution, which currently doesn’t allow for it.
An effort to change Connecticut’s constitution to allow for early voting passed the House last year by a vote of 78-70, but it failed to get called for a vote in the Senate.
Early voting is part of an agenda being pushed by Democratic legislative leadership.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said if a person is working two part-time jobs then it’s not inconceivable that they would be unable to get to a polling place in the 14 hours the polls are open on Election Day.
He said modernizing Connecticut’s voting system should not be a partisan issue, but based on last year’s vote it definitely is a partisan issue. Only two Republicans in the House joined Democrats in voting for the early voting resolution last year.
There was no organized effort to defeat the legislation last year and only a few people testified against it during a public hearing.
Luther Weeks of CTVotersCount testified that contrary to the benefits, early voting decreases turnout. He said academic research has shown that early voting, including voting by mail, decreases turnout by three percent.
During his speech Wednesday Malloy said “our modern lives and busy schedules don’t always align with a 14-hour block of time for voting. People who work hard and follow the rules should be able to express their most fundamental democratic right.”
Melissa Russell, president of the Registrars Voters Association of Connecticut, testified that they are supportive of studying the issue of “early voting.”
Connecticut does have same-day voter registration that allows eligible voters to sign-up and vote on Election Day.
Only about 7 to 9 percent of voters vote using absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are restricted to those unable to get to the polls because they won’t be in state, are members of the military serving overseas, or are prevented by an illness or a religious belief from physically being at the polls on Election Day.