Folks in Connecticut like to brag that their state is one of the leaders in the nation in voter turnout. But those bragging rights belong to others instead.
In fact, Connecticut’s voter turnout lagged behind 15 other states in 2020 despite the state’s having the fifth highest level of educational attainment in the U.S. A likely reason for this underperformance: voting is considerably easier in almost every other state than it is here.
The good news is that we will soon have a chance to make it much easier for everyone in Connecticut to vote in future elections.
On November 8, voters can choose to expand voting access and bring our elections into the 21st century by voting yes on ballot question 1: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?”
A majority “yes” vote on this question will allow the legislature to determine the days, times, and places for early in-person voting in Connecticut, which state legislators would almost certainly do next year.
Connecticut currently has some of the most restrictive and out-of-date voting laws in the country; the only states that do not permit early voting in addition to Connecticut are Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire. All 46 other states allow it. Early voting received bipartisan support in the General Assembly and is popular across the country in red, blue, and purple states; even states that over the past few years have restricted voting access have retained early voting. Although some have restricted the number of days or, like Georgia, hours when early voting is allowed, they have not dared to eliminate it.
Overall, states offer an average of 23 days of early voting, ranging from three to 46 days. Indeed, as I write this, voters are already going to the polls in record numbers in many states, while Connecticut voters must wait for Nov. 8.
People want to vote, but they don’t want it to be an ordeal. The current reality is that many find it difficult or impossible to vote when their only chance to do it is on the traditional November election day.
Many of our citizens juggle a host of conflicting demands on their time; early voting would make this fundamental right more accessible for people in many different life situations. For example, those who must work two or more jobs to make ends meet may not be able to get time off on election day without the risk of being fired; a choice of voting days would allow them to find a time when they could vote without endangering their livelihood.
Parents of young children may have trouble finding daycare on election day but could more easily find someone to mind the kids on another day. In addition, many commuters to New York spend such long hours outside the state that they run out of time to vote on election day but could vote in person on a weekend day. Similarly, college students, many of whom also have jobs, have time crunches on some days of the week but could vote on less heavily scheduled days.
Others, including some older people and individuals with disabilities, might be unable to find a ride on a single election day or be incapable of standing in the long lines that often form at the polls, especially in some of our cities. Indeed, long lines at the polls likely discourage any number of potential voters. Early voting held on a range of days would reduce or eliminate those waiting times.
Voting shouldn’t be restricted to those who can make it to the polls on a single election day in November or who meet the narrow requirements for an absentee ballot. Let’s make voting as accessible as possible to all our citizens by approving Question 1 on November 8.
Diana Evans is a member of the Advisory Board of Common Cause in Connecticut and a retired Professor of Political Science at Trinity College in Hartford.