An absentee ballot envelope for West Hartford.
An absentee ballot envelope for West Hartford. Credit: File / CTNewsJunkie

Democrats on the legislature’s election policy committee advanced a resolution to amend the state constitution Monday, hoping this year to convince more of their Republican colleagues to support no-excuse absentee voting than supported an identical attempt last year. 

The Government Administration and Elections Committee took a partisan vote in support of a resolution to remove restrictive language on absentee voting from the constitution. It’s the first step in the convoluted process of changing the constitution and a step the committee and the legislature as a whole took last year. 

But although supporters succeeded in passing the resolution, they fell short of the super majority necessary to put the question before voters this year. 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.

During Monday’s meeting, Sen. Mae Flexer, a Willimantic Democrat who co-chairs the panel, said she was holding out hope that enough Republican opponents in the House would change their minds to achieve a super majority this year. 

“I don’t give up hope that over the next five weeks we can find a path to language that we could cross the threshold of getting stronger bipartisan support so the voters in Connecticut could decide this fall,” Flexer said. She said supporters were only about 10 votes shy in the House. “I think why we’re having the conversation today in this committee is in the hope that we could find 10 sympathetic legislators.”

Both the committee’s ranking Republicans said they doubted Flexer would find those sympathetic votes unless significant changes were made to the resolution. Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said he would support an amendment only if it was written to add language requiring ballot signature verification and photo identification policies into the constitution.

“That’s what it would take, in my opinion,” Sampson said, referencing amendments to add the verification requirements into the resolution. With the amendments the committee could “carry this no-excuse absentee voting constitutional amendment resolution forward to the House and Senate with those items attached and we may well get to 75%. But barring that, I don’t see any point in the bill even being debated further.” 

The committee opted to advance the resolution without the language Sampson requested. 

Independent of the constitutional amendment, the legislature approved a bill last week, which made it easier for some residents to qualify for absentee ballots. That bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.