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Groups Push for Clarity on Absentee Ballots in November

It would take a constitutional amendment to make no-excuse absentee ballots or permanent absentee status possible for voters in Connecticut. (Flickr)
It would take a constitutional amendment to make no-excuse absentee ballots or permanent absentee status possible for voters in Connecticut. (Flickr)
May 26, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Voting rights groups are calling on state legislators to officially allow Connecticut voters to claim fear of coronavirus as a permissible reason to request an absentee ballot for the November election.

Gov. Ned Lamont just signed a "safe voting" executive order making it possible to use a person's concern about coronavirus as a legitimate excuse to request an absentee ballot. It only applies to the primary election in August - but it's a start, said Judy Lhamon vice president for public issues with the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.

"Since the governor doesn't believe he has the authority to issue an executive order for November, it would make the path clear to using absentee ballots on the same basis in November that they're being allowed in August," Lhamon said.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill also has said Connecticut voters with preexisting conditions that put them at particular risk for COVID-19 infection can request absentee ballots, but that doesn't cover all voting adults.

The General Assembly hasn't met since March 12. Lhamon argued they ought to convene a special session as soon as possible to iron out these pre-election details.

"We're calling on the Legislature to come back into session in time so that planning can take place to make the election fair, safe and secure for all voters," she said.

The Secretary of State said last week she intends to send an application for an absentee ballot with a postage-paid return, to all registered voters. Last week, Michigan's Secretary of State promised to do the same thing - prompting President Donald Trump to call it "a path to voter fraud," and threaten to pull federal funds from the Great Lakes State.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT