More than half of Connecticut voters plan to support a constitutional amendment to allow the state to adopt an early voting law, according to a survey released Wednesday by WTNH in the first public polling on a question that will appear on November ballots.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 19 and 21 by Emerson College for News 8 and The Hill. It found 52% of voters planning to vote “yes” on the early voting ballot question while 35% planned to vote “no” and 13% said they had yet to make up their minds.
Wednesday’s survey provides a glimpse at public opinion of the early voting issue in Connecticut, one of only four states that does not allow voters some mechanism to physically go to the polls prior to Election Day. In addition to Connecticut, only Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire have not adopted an early voting option, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
As it is currently written, Connecticut’s constitution prevents the state legislature from passing an early voting law. This year’s ballot question would amend the constitution to allow lawmakers to consider the issue in a future legislative session.
State voters narrowly rejected a similar amendment back in 2014. Asked whether the constitution should be amended to ease use of absentee ballots and allow a person to vote without appearing on Election Day, about voters 491,000 answered “No,” compared to 453,000 who voted “Yes.”
Proponents of the change believe the 2014 referendum failed at least in part because of the confusing way the question was worded. They say this year’s ballot question — “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?” — is more clearly articulated.
Early voting has been debated among this year’s candidates for secretary of the state. During a debate earlier this month, Stephanie Thomas, the Democratic nominee, argued allowing more time to vote in person would provide greater access to the ballot.
“Early voting… it’s good for everybody. It’s good for seniors, any community that doesn’t know their good days from their bad days,” Thomas said. “I’ve met men with arthritic knees, elderly gentlemen who said ‘I’m so angry I couldn’t make it out to vote once, I woke up that day and my knee pain was so great I couldn’t get out of bed.’ If he had a couple of days to choose from, he could have voted.”
Meanwhile, Dominic Rapini, the Republican nominee, argued the policy could put additional strain on the state’s election officials depending on how long a period of early voting the legislature eventually approves.
“When we look at early voting, we look at a referendum that quite frankly is written like a blank check,” Rapini said. “We don’t know what it’s going to be. We don’t know if it’s going to be three days, five days. We don’t know if it’s going to be 45 days. We don’t know because the lawmakers who are going to decide that haven’t even been elected yet.”
If passed the General Assembly will be asked to approve the guidelines for early voting in Connecticut. Supporters of early voting in Connecticut have generally advocated for a shorter period of early voting. During the debate, Thomas said a period of 30 days would not be feasible in Connecticut, where she expected the legislature to consider a period of seven days or less.