Voters wait in line at the Tolland Senior Center. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut policymakers expect to craft a relatively short window for early in-person voting following the Tuesday passage of a ballot question amending the state constitution to permit the legislature to give residents earlier dates to appear at the polls. 

Unofficial results from last week’s election indicated that nearly 60% of voters were willing to give the General Assembly the green light to adopt an early voting law, which had previously been prevented by language in the state constitution. 

Now state officials will get to work preparing a proposal ahead of the legislative session that begins in January. During a post-election press conference in Hartford last week, incoming Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said she would be reviewing policies from states around the country but expected that Connecticut’s early voting bill would give voters a limited window to cast ballots in person prior to Election Day. 

“Based on the information I have so far, I would expect us to be somewhere in that few-days to five-days-window,” Thomas said. “I expect to start Day 1 in January with a plan in hand and I will be speaking with legislators… before January so that we can hit the ground running with something that can be implemented here in Connecticut.”

The bill will likely begin in the state legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, which crafts the state’s election policies. Rep. Dan Fox, a Stamford Democrat who serves as one of the panel’s two co-chairs, said Friday he was unsure about how long an early voting period lawmakers would eventually arrive at, but intended the policy to be informed by feedback from state and local administrators. 

“We’re going to get input from all sides: Democrats, Republicans, municipalities I think will play a big role in helping us decide which direction to go,” Fox said. “There are a number of different things we need to look at like accessibility, financial demands and municipal structures. Are they capable of maintaining this process however big or small it may be?”

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said legislative Republicans will push to make sure the voices of those local election administrators are considered as lawmakers draft the new policy. 

“Our biggest concern that we’re hearing from our town halls and our registrars is, logistically, how are they going to do it?” Candelora said Friday. “One thing that we are experiencing is it’s hard for registrars to even get moderators for Election Day. So if we’re going to be opening the polls for a five-day period, what is that going to look like in terms of manpower to operate those polls?”

At the moment, Connecticut is one of just four states along with Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire that do not allow some form of early voting. Tuesday’s ballot question puts Connecticut one step closer to changing that.

However, the question has already been challenged in court through an Election Day lawsuit, filed by Noemi Soto, which argued that state lawmakers failed to follow their own rules when they put the question on the ballot. The case is currently before Hartford Superior Court Judge Cesar Noble, who will hold a conference on the matter on Wednesday.

Asked about the lawsuit last week, Attorney General William Tong, whose office will represent the state in the matter, declined to discuss the details of the case but told reporters he was confident.

“I’m not going to comment on the specific facts and allegations of this lawsuit. Suffice it to say we’re way behind most other states in early voting and creating more access to elections so we’re going to win this case,” Tong said.