HARTFORD, CT — The General Administration and Elections Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to advance a resolution that would change Connecticut’s constitution to allow for early and no-excuse absentee voting.
The committee voted 10-6 in favor of a bill that would allow for at least three days of in-person voting prior to Election Day.
The resolution, which still has a long way to go, now heads to the House where it would have to be approved by 114 of the 151 members. The Senate would also have to approve the resolution with support from 27 of their 36 members before voters would get a chance to weigh in during the 2020 election. If it only passes the House and the Senate by a simple majority this year, then the next House and the Senate would have to pass it again before it appears on the ballot in 2022.
Democratic lawmakers behind the push for early voting would need Republican support to get it on the ballot in 2020, however, they believe support for early voting is growing even though a previous effort fell short.
An early voting resolution made it onto the ballot in 2014 but was rejected by 53 percent of the voters.
“Voting is a fundamental right and we should be doing all we can to make it easier for people to exercise that right,” Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said. “We must create more opportunities for people to vote, through extending the period for in-person voting and allowing for no-excuse absentee voting. Voter participation in our democracy is paramount and we want everybody’s voice to be heard.”
Thirty-nine states already allow voters to vote prior to Election Day and more than 40 million voters nationwide took advantage of that opportunity in 2018, according to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
“Connecticut citizens deserve the same opportunity to conveniently cast their ballots,” Merrill said.
Those who support the concept like Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, said the resolution recognized that having to show up at a polling place on one day between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. “does not work for everyone.”
“Some people have to work during those hours, and others do not have the ability to plan ahead and get an absentee ballot. Furthermore, if the person is going to be in town that day, they are unable to receive an absentee ballot,” Conley said.
Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about early voting saying there is an increased possibility of fraud. There’s also opposition to some forms of early voting.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has said before they have a conversation about changing the constitution they need to ensure the current system is protected from fraud.
“I have concerns about changing the constitution without having a full vision to implement early voting in a way that guarantees fraud cannot occur,” Fasano said in January. “I look forward to discussing these concerns with the Secretary of the State and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”
Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, has said there’s no need for early voting. It would just be another unfunded mandate on municipalities.
Devlin said her research showed that there was a 74 percent voter participation rate in the 2012 election; 77 percent rate in the 2016 election.
“That’s significant participation,” she said. “We do have an active electorate already and this would add costs as an unfunded mandate. We have far more important issues in front of us.”
A 2016 Gallup poll, 80 percent of Americans supported early voting. The poll found that 74 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of unaffiliated voters, and 85 percent of Democrats support early voting.
“Life is unpredictable and it is unrealistic to have one day to vote in-person and expect everybody to get to the polls on that day,” Flexer said. “I’m thrilled that we are one step closer to making early voting a reality.”