Conard High School voting booths Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Proposals to explore or implement ranked choice voting options in Connecticut will not advance this year out of a legislative committee on election policy, which declined to vote on the bills before a key deadline later this week. 

Ranked choice voting is an electoral system intended to boost electoral civility and make third party candidates more viable by allowing voters to rank candidates for office rather than choosing just one. 

Proponents of the system hoped an endorsement by Gov. Ned Lamont during last year’s election season would help fuel momentum for legislative action this year. However, the Government Administration and Election Committee left five separate ranked choice proposals on the table when it finished a lengthy agenda on Monday, its last meeting before a deadline to advance committee bills. 

In an interview on Tuesday, Rep. Matt Blumenthal, a Stamford Democrat who co-chairs the panel, said there was no consensus on the committee whether to move forward with ranked choice voting and little time to explore the issue given more pressing priorities like advancing early voting policies in the wake of a constitutional amendment allowing for the practice in Connecticut.

“We ultimately just decided that we didn’t have the bandwidth or the support we needed this session to get a [ranked choice] bill done,” Blumenthal said. 

As things stand now, ranked choice voting faces other challenges in Connecticut, not the least of which being the aging tabulating machines used by municipalities to process ballots. Those machines are not capable of handling a ranked ballot. 

Still, advocates of the policy were disappointed by the committee’s decision. Monte Frank, a former third party candidate for lieutenant governor, has been among Connecticut’s leading proponents of the electoral system. On Tuesday, Frank, a member of an advisory board for the advocacy group CTVotersFirst, said he understood the GAE panel was focused on early voting and hoped ranked choice would see greater success during future sessions.

“Early voting took many, many years to get to this point and we are encouraged that the governor is such a strong partner on RCV, that we have significant bipartisan support in the legislature, that the public is increasingly — exponentially behind RCV,” Frank said. 

In 2018, Frank ran alongside gubernatorial candidate R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel in the race for Connecticut governor. Although that election went to Lamont, who beat out Republican Bob Stefanowski by more than 44,000 votes, Griebel and Frank received enough support to secure a line on the ballot for last year’s gubernatorial race.

Griebel, a former Republican investment banker and longtime leader of the Metro-Hartford Alliance, died unexpectedly in 2020 when he was hit by a vehicle while jogging in Pennsylvania. And last year, the Griebel-Frank party endorsed Lamont in his rematch against Stefanowski after the Democrat announced his support for ranked choice voting. 

That endorsement earned Lamont a third line on the 2022 ballot and in his remarks after being inaugurated for a second term, he urged the secretary of the state to consider ranked choice voting. In a statement Tuesday, Lamont’s spokesman, Adam Joseph, said the governor’s office also submitted testimony in support of one of the bills which stalled in the legislature’s elections committee. 

“While that proposal did not advance this year, we remain committed to and look forward to working with the General Assembly to enact a system of early voting,” Joseph said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Josh Elliott, a Hamden Democrat who co-sponsored two of this year’s ranked choice bills, said he agreed with the decision to prioritize efforts to implement early voting and “bring our voting structure up to the 21st century.” However, he was disappointed the committee declined to act on legislation that would have approved ranked choice as an option when and if towns were ready to implement such a change. 

“The bill didn’t say that it was going to be implemented immediately, it was going to be implemented when the voting structure was ready for it,” Elliott said.