Voters will get the opportunity to weigh in next year on legalizing early voting in Connecticut as a result of a resolution to amend the state’s constitution passed Thursday night on a bipartisan vote in the Senate.
Lawmakers voted 26 to 9 to send to the voters for consideration as a referendum question next year at the polls. Currently, Connecticut’s constitution explicitly prevents early voting, a practice that is either legal or soon-to-be legal in 44 other states.
Sen. Mae Flexer, co-chairwoman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, urged senators to empower voters to remove restrictions from the state constitution. Flexer said the provisions for voting have not kept up with the times.
“Simply put, Connecticut needs to catch up with the rest of the country,” Flexer said. “Our voters should be able to choose when and where they want to vote. This General Assembly should be able to debate the concept of early voting and put in place the perimeters by which that will be possible, but first and foremost we have to adopt this resolution.”
In order to put a referendum question before voters, the legislature must pass a resolution by a 75% majority or pass it in two separate years. Thursday was the second time lawmakers approved the early voting resolution.
During the debate, Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he knew the language had to mirror what was passed two years ago, but wanted the resolution considered by voters to include a specific timeframe for early voting. He said he didn’t know if they were talking about two weeks of early voting or 60 days before the election.
“I understand part of this is convenience,” Kissel said. “But I think we need to know exactly what the parameters are.”
Proponents argued those specifics would be debated and codified in the future if voters decided to let lawmakers make those changes.
“We’re giving the voters the opportunity to say what they want,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said.
He said voters should be able to exercise their right to vote even when they have to go to work, or take care of a sick child.
In a press release, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said the legislature’s vote would make it easier for Connecticut voters to have their voices heard.
“On Election Day 2022, Connecticut voters will get to decide if they want the option of voting in person before Election day – just like the voters in 44 other states,” Merrill said. “As Florida, Texas, Georgia, and other states are moving to restrict voting rights, I’m proud that Connecticut is doing the opposite, addressing our burdensome and restrictive laws, and making voting more accessible to every eligible Connecticut citizen.”
The early voting resolution is one of two proposals to amend the state constitution for voting policies before the legislature this year. Lawmakers are also considering whether voters should get the chance to weigh in on obtaining absentee ballots without needing to invoke one of a handful of excuses outlined in the constitution.
The absentee ballot question is still awaiting action in the Senate and has inspired more controversy this year. It will not appear before voters until at least 2024. The House passed that resolution earlier this month, but not by a wide enough margin to let voters consider it next year. Instead it will need to be passed again by the legislature during a subsequent session before it can be considered by voters.