Our forefathers got it right. In the early days of our Republic, voting was held over the course of several days so that rural voters would have ample time to travel to town and county courthouses to cast their ballots.
Although the motivation for allowing Americans to vote in person prior to Election Day has changed over the centuries, the end result in the late 1700s was as it should be today: The more time granted to people to vote, the more of them exercise their franchise. In other words, early in-person voting increases turnout, a goal that we should all enthusiastically embrace.
Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa understand that. They all permit some type of early voting. Sadly, Connecticut – along with Alabama, Mississippi and New Hampshire – is an outlier. On Election Day, we can change that.
On Nov. 8, Connecticut voters will have an opportunity to join the vast majority of Americans by voting YES on Ballot Question 1: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?” Assuming the language is approved, the constitutional barrier to early voting would be removed and it would be up to the state legislature to determine a convenient schedule for eligible voters to cast their ballots prior to Election Day.
This is such a common-sense idea that in the past six years alone, nine states have moved to permit qualified voters to cast their ballots during a designated period before Election Day. No reason or justification is needed, nor should it be.
Nationwide in 2016, 19% of people who voted did so in person prior to Election Day. By 2020, that percentage had spiked to 26 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And in Connecticut, when voters had the unprecedented opportunity – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – to vote on a day other than Election Day, more than one-third jumped at the chance.
Opponents will argue that if a person is intent on voting that he or she will find a way, come hell or high water, to get to the polls. But there are a multitude of reasons why eligible voters – as well-intentioned as they may be – don’t make it to their polling place between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Life is complicated. Stuff happens. Cars break down. People get sick. Traffic is heavy. The caregiver doesn’t show up. The train from Grand Central is running late. Sleet has made driving hazardous. A ride promised to a frail person doesn’t materialize. Unforeseen problems can and do occur.
Then there are folks who, when they see lines snaking out the door, turn around and leave because they can’t afford to wait. Unlike in countries where Election Day is on a weekend or is a national holiday, in this country Election Day is a workday and many people have a small window in which to be away from their workplace.
If Ballot Question 1 passes, those long lines could disappear or at the very least dramatically shrink. Evidence from other states has shown that early voting alleviates congestion on Election Day because so many people have already cast their ballots.
Early in-person voting is not a partisan issue; it’s a good-government issue. Democratic and Republican legislators had the good sense to twice vote to place this language on the 2022 ballot. In addition to lawmakers, Question 1 has the support of groups such as Common Cause in Connecticut, the AARP, the League of Women Voters, the League of Conservation Voters and many faith organizations.
Despite Connecticut’s nickname as “The Constitution State,” we continue to have some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. But we can chip away at those restrictions on Nov. 8.
Voting is not a privilege to be conferred only on those who are free and able to get to the polls between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Vote YES on Ballot Question 1.
For more information about this important issue, visit: www.earlyvotingct.org.