Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a bill expanding the conditions under which Connecticut voters can qualify for an absentee ballot, making mail-in voting easier for commuters and residents worried about illnesses.
Although Connecticut’s constitution contains language explicitly outlining a handful of excuses a voter must use in order to obtain an absentee ballot, the bill eases the restrictions previously written into state law. It removes a requirement that commuters be out of town for all hours in which polls are open. It deletes language requiring a voter to be personally ill in order to qualify for a ballot based on sickness.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said they are still working to come up with a legal opinion outlining exactly what they mean when it comes to the word “sickness.” The law is intended to allow anyone afraid of contracting COVID-19 to request an absentee ballot application by expanding the definition of sickness.
In 2020, under an executive order, more than 35% of voters chose to vote by absentee. That was at the height of the pandemic.
Merrill said she doesn’t know what impact the new law will have on the use of absentee ballots in the 2022 election.
She said Connecticut doesn’t have much experience with it here because of the strictness of the constitution but she imagines absentee voting may increase as a result of the law.
“I think this is smart and timely to allow people to vote safely,” Lamont said from the governor’s residence in Hartford.
Lamont, who currently has COVID-19, said he doesn’t know what things will look like in November.
Lamont will be on the ballot for re-election.
“I want people voting. I want people to know that their vote matters,” he said before signing the bill.
Some Republican lawmakers expressed concern about absentee ballot fraud with the expansion.
Merrill called the instances a “drop in the bucket” and “well worth overlooking for the simple fact that we’ve been able to allow so many more people can exercise their right to vote.”