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Bill in CT Senate Would Expedite Military Voting Rights

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May 5, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - Two weeks ago, the Connecticut House unanimously passed a bill to affirm and protect the voting rights of the six million United States citizens living abroad or stationed abroad with the military. In the final hours of this year's session, it still awaits action in the Senate.

A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that only one-third of the individuals who requested absentee ballots in 2006 actually cast their votes, and suggests that the current lengthy process could be shortened to improve the response rate. Cheryl Dunson, vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, says the Internet can help.

"Expanded use of Internet transmission and other electronic transmission of election materials is one way to address the problem of lost mail, delays in delivery and things which serve as barriers to voting."

The bill (HB 5442) would still require voters to mail back their marked ballots by surface postal mail to guard against identity theft or fraud. But Dunson says the League is concerned that it arrived in the state Senate with several unrelated amendments attached, which is expected to make it more difficult to pass before adjournment at midnight on Wednesday.

"With the burdens and challenges that are faced by our men and women in uniform who defend and represent democratic ideals around the world, we should be acting now to remove barriers to participating in our democracy here at home."

She explains the bill was introduced to bring Connecticut in line with recent federal legislation, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, passed by Congress.

The Pew report, "No Time to Vote: Challenges Facing America’s Overseas Military Voters," is online at www.pewtrusts.org.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT