Claudine Constant, secretary of the ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC

The Connecticut ACLU launched a new political action committee Tuesday, hoping to focus this year’s gubernatorial and secretary of the state races on policing and ballot access issues as well as building support for expanding early voting options. 

The group announced the creation of the ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC during a morning press conference in Hartford. The nonpartisan PAC will concentrate its efforts on building political pressure on civil rights and liberties issues rather than endorsing specific candidates or parties. 

“Even with all the harmful decisions felt by Connecticut residents over the last several years, politicians still aren’t prioritizing or listening to people most affected by civil rights and liberties issues, especially Black and Latinx people,” Claudine Constant, the PAC’s secretary, said. “The ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC is here to change that and politicians can no longer afford to ignore us.”

On its first day, the PAC sent surveys to Connecticut candidates for governor seeking commitments on a handful of issues including closing the Manson Youth Institution by 2024, eliminating the state’s cash bail system, and redirecting a portion of Connecticut’s spending on policing and incarceration to address affordable housing and food insecurity. 

The PAC has solicited responses from Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and his Republican opponent Bob Stefanowski as well as Independent Party candidate Rob Hotaling, Green Party candidate Michelle Louise Bicking, and Libertarian Party candidate Aaron Lewis. 

The group sent separate surveys to candidates running for secretary of the state including Democrat Stephanie Thomas and Republican Dominic Rapini, asking them to commit to supporting specific ballot access policies. 

For instance, the survey asks candidates to support an opt-out voter registration model, which automatically registers eligible residents to vote, and asks whether candidates will support restoring voting rights to incarcerated people. 

The PAC also plans to build support for a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to pass early voting policies. Connecticut is one of only four states that does not allow some form of early in-person voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Residents will see the amendment as a question on this year’s ballot in November. 

“We’re asking all voters in Connecticut to support racial justice by supporting the early voting question on the ballot, a choice that would make voting more accessible to more people,” Constant said. 

At the moment, the committee has about $58,000, which was contributed by the state ACLU chapter. While the PAC may receive more contributions from ACLU sources, its chairperson, David McGuire, said it will not be accepting funds from other individuals or organizations. 

McGuire said the money would help pay for canvasing to support the ballot question as well as some possible advertising as the election draws closer. Although surveys were sent on Tuesday and no candidate had responded as of that afternoon, McGuire said the ACLU PAC planned to publicize candidate responses when they are received. 

“The whole point of this is to let people know where candidates are on civil rights and civil liberties issues and we’ll use our platforms to get that information out there,” McGuire said. “I think this [PAC] will be really effective. The ethos we’ve brought to the Capitol will now be on the campaign trail, which I think will ultimately get good responses from candidates on critical civil rights and civil liberties issues.”