Early voting policies under consideration by Connecticut lawmakers are expected to cost between $6.9 million and $9.2 million, according to reports by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Those expenses are expected to impact both the state of Connecticut and its 169 municipalities and will depend on which of three proposals the legislature chooses to adopt in the coming weeks.
After state voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment removing long-standing barriers to passing an early voting law, the Government Administration and Elections Committee advanced three bills, which contemplate voting periods of between 10 and 14 days.
Legislative analysts expect that the proposal calling for a 10-day voting window will be the cheapest of the three bills to implement with cost estimates ranging from $6.9 million to $8.4 million. The two policies allowing for a 14-day voting period come with price tags ranging from $7.7 million to $9.2 million.
The length of time during which polls are open will affect the budgets of the towns and cities expected to staff at least one polling place throughout the additional voting days. The two 14-day proposals come with an expected cost of $4.4 million to municipalities. Fiscal analysts predict the 10-day bill will cost $3.6 million.
Under all three bills, those expenses will be split over the course of three years and fluctuate depending on the election cycle. Years in which voters participate in primary and statewide elections will be more expensive to fund than the off-years with only municipal contests.
The proposals allow municipalities to operate one central polling location during early voting days rather than open every location normally available on Election Day. However, it creates a process for larger towns and cities to operate additional polling places and the OFA reports assumed that municipalities would open around 40 additional sites across the state.
Lawmakers are expected to push for the state to pick up at least some of the tab for municipal costs as an early voting policy is rolled out. During a Monday hearing of a legislative subcommittee on bonding, Rep. David Yaccarino, R-North Haven, said the legislature should fully fund the municipal cost of whichever early voting policy it adopts.
“That’s not for today’s discussion but we all know we need — that’s going to be a big pushback for towns for a mandate,” Yaccarino said. “I think we’ll get more people on board if we could somehow fund each municipality going forward.”
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, who was testifying before the panel, agreed.
“Absolutely. We will have to,” Thomas said. “Most towns have already set their budgets or they’re in the final throes of doing so.”
The reports estimate that state expenses under the Office of the Secretary of the State would range from $3.3 million to $4.8 million and would fund technological upgrades and updates to the Centralized Voter Registration System’s software. The state is also expected to fund a public information campaign to raise awareness of the new early voting policy.
Thomas appeared before the bonding on Monday to request $25 million in borrowing to purchase 3,000 ballot tabulators to replace the aging machines currently in use across the state.
“They’ve become unreliable and unserviceable,” she said. “It’s old technology. There’s frequent jamming.”
Thomas said the company that manufactured the tabulators has since gone out of business, making it nearly impossible for her office to find replacement parts when a machine breaks down.
“We’ve even gone so far as to be on ebay, trying to bid on old machines. They just don’t exist anymore and the parts don’t exist anymore,” she said.