absentee ballot application
You must put in an excuse on your absentee ballot application. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie.com

The legislative committee with oversight of election policy raised a resolution to amend the state constitution Friday, taking another swing at courting Republican votes to expand absentee ballot voting. 

At first blush, the resolution raised by the Government Administration and Elections Committee seems redundant. Last year, the legislature passed a measure to give voters an opportunity to weigh whether Connecticut’s constitution should be changed to permit absentee ballot voting beyond a handful of specific excuses.

But the process of changing the constitution is deliberately difficult and although Democrats in the legislature succeeded in passing the resolution, enough Republicans opposed it to put the process in the slow lane. The resolution has to be approved by the legislature again after this year’s election, meaning the earliest voters could consider the question would be in 2024.

Or maybe not. By raising the resolution again, proponents hope they can attract support from essentially the same group of Republicans who opposed it last year and pass the measure with the supermajority necessary to clear the way for voters to decide this year. 

It was unclear Friday how proponents hoped to gain support, but Sen. Rob Sampson, a Wolcott Republican and staunch opponent of expanding absentee voting, welcomed their efforts. Sampson said he hoped Democrats would compromise and adopt some of the policies Republicans have called for, like a signature verification process or a prohibition on the unsolicited mailing of ballot applications. 

“I’ll just state right here — I would like to see that happen,” Sampson said. “I am not a fan of no-excuse absentee voting. However, I am even less of a fan of no-excuse absentee voting without the proper checks and balances.”

Rep. Daniel Fox, a Stamford Democrat who is co-chair of the panel, said he hoped some agreement could be reached to adopt the resolution with the 75% support from the legislature needed to expedite the process. For that to even be a possibility, the committee had to raise the resolution early in the session. Unlike traditional legislation, it could not be raised later or grafted to a different bill. No one on the committee objected to raising the concept again.
In addition to pursuing a permanent removal of restrictions from the constitution, Democrats have raised a separate bill to continue expanded absentee voting as the state has permitted temporarily during the pandemic to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Republicans have opposed that bill, calling it unconstitutional.