HARTFORD, CT — The Senate was unable to find enough support to send an early voting resolution to the voters in November 2020, which means it’s up to the next General Assembly to decide whether Connecticut should have no-excuse absentee or early voting.
The Senate passed the resolution 23-13. Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, was the only Republican to vote with Democrats in favor of the resolution. The Senate needed 27 members to support the resolution to get it on the ballot in 2020.
The House passed the resolution on April 24 with a 125-24 supermajority.
Wednesday’s vote means the next General Assembly will only have to pass the same resolution by a simple majority to send the question about early voting to voters.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said 39 other states have some form of early voting, which is “widely accepted and wildly popular across the country.”
“It is shameful that only one Republican senator was willing to put the interest of their voters ahead of perceived, yet misguided, partisan advantage. This amendment wasn’t about partisanship, it was about the voters,” Merrill said.
The resolution the Senate debated Wednesday would allow a future General Assembly to decide what early voting looks like in Connecticut, Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said.
“Senate Republicans are completely out of step with their House Republican colleagues, nearly 60 percent of whom supported this measure, and are out of step with the vast majority of voters in our state,” Flexer said. “It’s shameful that as a result of this vote tonight, Connecticut voters will have to wait at least four more years to experience early voting.”
Connecticut’s constitution dictates how voters are allowed to vote, so it’s not as simple as allowing a majority of the General Assembly to change state law to allow for no-excuse absentee or some other form of early voting.
“It allows the General Assembly to consider early voting, but it does not require them too,” Flexer said, referring to the resolution.
And that would only happen if voters approve.
In 2014, Connecticut voters rejected a constitutional amendment to allow for early voting.
Republicans opposed the resolution.
“This proposal is extremely broad,” Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said. “This allows for an unlimited period of time.”
A previous version of the bill would have limited early voting to three days before an election.
Sampson said Connecticut needs to be careful about amending its constitution.
“I don’t mean to be ridiculous but there’s nothing stopping it from being the day after the previous election,” Sampson said. “That is not the kind of language we should be putting in our state constitution.”
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said his constituents felt the rush into this area was “misguided.”
“I view this as what’s before us as a blank check for the next legislature to do whatever they want. I’m concerned about that,” Kissel said.
“Right now it’s highly prescribed because we are protecting something that is sacrosanct to democracy,” Kissel said.
Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, who voted for the legislation in 2014, said the state should wait until the next constitutional convention to amend the constitution.
Next year, the question will be on the ballot for voters to decide whether Connecticut should have a constitutional convention.
“I believe that is the appropriate time where electors could participate in democracy and have discussion and debate whether or not we should change our constitution to do a variety of things,” Witkos said.