Lawmakers in the House plan to vote Thursday on a proposal to implement early voting in Connecticut, according to House Speaker Matt Ritter. The legislation is expected to offer residents up to 14 days of in-person voting ahead of next year’s elections.
If approved by the House and Senate, the legislation will permit early voting for the first time in Connecticut, which is currently one of four states with no option for voters to cast ballots in-person ahead of Election Day.
The change was allowed by a resolution overwhelmingly approved by voters last year, which removed constitutional barriers to early voting. The bill is expected to include 14 days of early voting prior to a November election and four days ahead of special elections and presidential primaries.
In the wake of that amendment, state policymakers had hoped to offer the first early voting period this year in order to give local officials and voters a chance to launch the policy during a typically low-turnout election cycle.
However, Thursday’s House vote will come about one week after news first reported by CTNewsJunkie that implementation will be delayed until 2024 due to time constraints raised by the vendors tasked with making necessary updates to the state’s election infrastructure.
As a result, Connecticut voters and municipal officials will likely encounter early voting for the first time during next year’s presidential primary election. During a Wednesday press briefing, Ritter acknowledged concerns about launching the new program during a typically high-turnout election cycle.
“That’s an unfortunate situation,” Ritter said. “You’re going to have a lot of voters. We hope we get it right.”
The early voting policies that have advanced out of a legislative committee on election policy have all required municipalities to operate at least one early polling location with an option to provide more if necessary. Ritter said lawmakers declined to initially require several polling places in larger cities in an effort to give towns time to get used to the process.
Implementation of early voting has also raised fiscal concerns for municipalities. Last month, legislative fiscal analysts projected that a 14-day voting period could cost towns and cities a total of around $4.4 million and as much as $9.2 million when state costs are factored in.
Legislators have sought to use state funds to offset those costs. On Wednesday, Ritter said financial assistance related to early voting would be included in budget-related proposals rather than the bill that will be raised Thursday.
Ritter said he expected lawmakers to eventually approve around $8 million to assist towns. The assistance would cover most expenses, he said.
“If they go above and beyond or they have their own issues, we can’t promise that every penny gets covered but the price tag of $8 million seems reasonable,” he said.
The bill is likely to see some opposition from House Republicans on Thursday. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said his party was largely left out of negotiations over the bill and had concerns about the ability of towns to fund and adequately staff the additional polling days.
“It’s not just about the dollars, it’s about hiring the people to do the job,” Candelora said. “We need trained professionals that are in there running these polling places. To try to get somebody to do that for two weeks out of the year is going to be difficult. It’s hard enough to get people to work a poll for one day let alone two weeks.”