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No-Excuse Absentee and Early Voting in CT Sparks Lengthy Debate

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State lawmakers are considering a bill to amend the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting going forward. (Judy Lhamon/League of Women Voters CT)
State lawmakers are considering a bill to amend the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting going forward. (Judy Lhamon/League of Women Voters CT)
February 23, 2021

HARTFORD, Conn. -- At a marathon hearing over Zoom on Monday, dozens of people put in their two cents on whether Connecticut should allow early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee ballots.

Last year, the state allowed voters to claim "fear of COVID-19" as an excuse to get an absentee ballot on a temporary basis.

Rep. Matthew Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said voting should be as convenient as possible.

"Every instance in which someone who would like to vote is prevented, either by logistical difficulties or the difficulty of obtaining an absentee ballot, that is a fundamental violation of the integrity of our electoral system," Blumenthal declared.

Dominic Rapini, vice president of marketing and development for the group Fight Voter Fraud which opposes the change, questioned the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.

House Joint Resolution 58 and House Joint Resolution 59 propose to amend the state constitution to allow early voting and no-excuse mail absentee ballots.

Even if they pass the Legislature, the issues still would need to get voters' approval in 2022.

Kelly McConney Moore, interim senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Connecticut, said the current rules are onerous and depress turnout, especially for Black voters.

"Voters who are less likely to be able to get to the polls on election day, like people with little job flexibility, people lacking transportation, people lacking child care, people with disabilities, voters without identification, and voters who lack language access," Moore outlined. "They're all disproportionately likely to be people of color."

Candace Banks, Representative Town Meeting from Westport, said it's particularly hard on commuters to vote in person, on a Tuesday.

"Most commuter towns would say that you shouldn't not get your vote counted if you miss the train or if you can't take off work," Banks asserted.

Connecticut is one of seven states that does not allow early voting and one of 15 that require an excuse to get an absentee ballot.

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

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT