Like 650,000 Connecticut residents, I voted by absentee ballot last November. Like me, these voters might be shocked to learn this method of voting is not available in future elections.
Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation built into its Constitution. These restrict people to a single day of voting (the first Tuesday in November) and limit use of the absentee ballot option to people who are ill or out of town for work Few people can plan an illness and not everyone knows when they will be out of town for work.
Because of the pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order allowing all registered voters in Connecticut to vote by absentee ballot in the August primary and in the November 2020 general election using “fear of becoming ill due to COVID-19.” Some 35% of voters did just that. Despite the huge increase in the number of voters voting by absentee ballot, no widespread fraud or voter abuse was found. It was one of the smoothest elections we’ve ever had, according to the Secretary of the State (SOTS), Denise Merrill.
A survey conducted for the SOTS in January, showed that 79% of voters want options for early voting in the future either in person or by absentee ballot. This includes 86% of registered Democrats, 69% of registered Republicans and 79% of unaffiliated voters. Clearly a majority of voters in Connecticut would like to have options.
Two bills are before the Government Administration and Election Committee that could permit us to vote early and by no-excuse absentee ballot. These bills are: HJ 58 (No Excuse Absentee Voting) and HJ 59 (Early In Person Voting). The GAE committee conducted hearings on February 22. The opposition, along party-lines, claimed the last election was filled with fraud although they could provide no evidence to support those arguments. Those claims monopolized the testimony for several hours and perpetuated the big lie that inspired the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
To my dismay, once again, the loud voices of a few were drowning out the majority in our state.
For the last three years, I have served as an absentee ballot moderator in my town (Glastonbury). I can tell you the system of checks and balances, the number of times we count and recount ballots, and the effort that goes into verifying voters from voter rolls when we check in the ballots does not leave room for voter fraud.
Due to our cumbersome Constitutional system, supporting these bills to change our election process is just the beginning of a long road. It simply means the bills can be voted out of the GAE Committee and onto the floor of the General Assembly. If passed, these would appear on the ballot as referendums. Voters would need to express their support once again before the bills to afford wider voting choices to Connecticut can become law.
If you would like these choices available in the future, please tell your state senators and representatives to support HJ 58 (No Excuse Absentee Voting) and 59 (Early In Person Voting). This is a chance to begin the process to change the way we vote in Connecticut.
Beth Hillson, also on behalf of Paula Bacolini and Carol Rizzolo of Safe Vote CT.