The House voted 113-38.

The House of Representatives approved easing restrictions on the use of absentee ballots on Tuesday, a change that would essentially allow all Connecticut residents to vote by mail.

The resolution would eliminate restrictions in the state constitution around who qualifies for an absentee ballot, meaning any registered voter can apply and receive one. The 113-38 vote sends the bill to the Senate. If approved, the proposal would then go to voters statewide in 2024. 

Rep. Matt Blumenthal, co-chair of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, said the bill amounts to “loosening ourselves from those shackles” of the state constitution. 

“It essentially handcuffs us from designing and executing a system of voting that works best for the people of Connecticut,” he said. 

Voters did approve amending the state constitution in 2022 to allow for early voting, but that only applies to in-person voting. That is set to take effect next year. 

Lawmakers last year also relaxed the definition of what it means to be sick, which is one of the six allowed reasons for an absentee ballot under the state constitution. 

Other reasons include allowances for active duty military, voters who will be out of state, those who have a disability that prevents them from getting to a polling place, or those with religious objections to voting on the day of an election. This proposal would instead leave up to the legislature to decide how the state administers absentee voting. 

“We run up against the limit,” Blumenthal said. “We are still handcuffed by the state constitution.” 

While 15 Republicans voted for the resolution, most objected. Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco said last year’s change essentially allows for so-called no-fault absentee ballots. 

She also objected to the characterization that Connecticut’s laws are more restrictive than other states. Currently, 27 states allow for no-fault absentee ballots and another eight have a vote-by-mail system. 

“No one in this legislature has ever, ever prevented anybody from voting or restricted them from voting,” said Mastrofrancesco, a ranking member of the GAE Committee. 

Blumenthal told reporters his expectation is that, if the constitution is changed, lawmakers would allow all registered voters to get an absentee ballot without needing to give a reason. That differs from vote-by-mail, where election officials automatically send ballots to all voters. 

But, when questioned by Mastrofrancesco, Blumenthal acknowledged nothing would prevent lawmakers in the future from going to vote-by-mail. 

Mastrofrancesco said it’s “critical that we maintain the integrity of our elections” and questioned why Connecticut doesn’t have a system to verify signatures or other security measures in place. 

Voters do have to sign an affidavit when requesting an absentee ballot. Blumenthal expressed confidence that Connecticut is already doing enough to catch instances of attempted fraud.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said his opposition to the proposal came from “trust” issues. He accused Democrats of ignoring the Secretary of the State, registrars of voters, Republicans, and others in coming up with early voting plans. 

“There is a level of arrogance that’s coming out of this building with one-party rule that isn’t good for the common folk of Connecticut that has to administer these procedures,” Candelora said. 

Democrats approved the same resolution in 2021, but it failed to get the supermajority needed to go to voters last year. In Connecticut, a proposed constitutional amendment goes to a statewide vote after approval from at least three-fourths of each chamber or by a simple majority of two consecutive legislatures. 

The House narrowly missed the three-quarters mark two years ago, requiring proponents to win over a majority of lawmakers again. 

It’s also similar to a proposal that failed in 2014. Proponents of the change have said voters rejected the proposal because the wording on the ballot was confusing. 

Democrats hold a two-to-one advantage over Republicans when it comes to party affiliation in Connecticut, although unaffiliated voters outnumber both groups. House Speaker Matt Ritter pushed back when asked if expanding the vote gave Democrats an advantage over Republicans.

“They have not had good candidates,” he said, adding he was talking about the state and national level. “They continue to attract self-funded people with no political experience who run really weird campaigns, which I think — with ideas that don’t resonate with the public.”