HARTFORD, CT— With a 125-24 supermajority Wednesday the House passed a resolution to change the state constitution to allow early voting or no-excuse absentee voting by 2021.
If 27 of the 36 members of the state Senate also approve the resolution then Connecticut voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue during the 2020 election and will get to decide for themselves if they want the ability to vote prior to Election Day. Voters rejected a similar amendment to the constitution back in 2014.
Rep. Dan Fox, D-Stamford, said there are more than 37 states that already allow some form of early voting.
He said the resolution did not specify exactly what type of early voting process Connecticut would have, only that if the voters approved the amendment in 2020 then it would come back to the General Assembly to decide.
“This is enabling legislation,” Fox said.
Connecticut’s voting restrictions, including what excuses are acceptable for absentee ballots, are outlined in the constitution. It makes changing them more difficult for Connecticut, but early voting looks different in every state.
Fox said none of the votes cast in an election under a new early voting system would be tallied until Election Day.
“Early voting is critical for increasing civic engagement, which is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Fox said. “This piece of legislation removes some barriers to the electoral process to ensure that every voter has the opportunity to exercise this fundamental right, regardless of their personal and work schedules.”
The vote was bipartisan in the end, but Republicans used the resolution to try and get a vote on a new election in the 120th District in Stratford election.
Rep. Phil Young, D-Stratford, won by 13 votes, but 75 voters in one polling place were given the wrong ballot. His Republican opponent, Jim Feehan, sued and the courts found it was up to the House of Representatives to make the decision.
The bipartisan panel created by leadership to resolve the issue completed its work in February, but the full House has yet to vote on whether to order a new election, or an election of just that one precinct.
Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, who was one of four members on the panel, attempted to resolve the issue by introducing an amendment to have voters re-vote at Bunnell High School in the 120th House District, but was ruled out of order by Deputy Speaker Juan Candelaria.
“Voters waited in long lines and voted with extraordinary turnout because they knew their vote would make a difference,” Perillo said. “But those weren’t my words those were the words of Gov. Lamont when he was sworn in.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said earlier this week that he was still reviewing the panel’s work and would make a decision about how to move forward with the results of that contested election and the divided decision by the panel. The two Democrats on the panel did not think it was necessary to have voters in Stratford or even that one polling place vote again. The two Republicans did.
There are still ongoing discussions about potential settlements, but nothing has been agreed to or finalized at this point,” Aresimowicz said earlier this week.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, a member of that bipartisan panel, said the amendment to the resolution is germaine and “our only opportunity to amend a resolution.”
He said they can’t amend a bill with a resolution so this was a rare opportunity for them to raise this issue.