There has been much written in recent months about the Early Voting Referendum, Question #1, on the ballot in November. Yes, it will expand access to the ballot with extended hours prior to Election Day. It will also allow voters to exercise their right to vote, while trying to manage their often challenging schedules.
Those who work in service jobs or do shift work, care for younger children or frail family members, or who have emergency-related work demands, will now have more options to vote.
Early voting provides for greater equity at the ballot box because it addresses the needs of all voters. Is it not important that all voters have ready access to the vote to elect those who most impact their lives?
Early voting also promises to increase voter participation, an antidote to an ailing democracy. As we confront the perilous threats to our democracy, we need to consider that democracy demands active involvement, and that in the absence of participation, those in power determine our fate.
In recent times, we have witnessed a strategic assault on voting rights. Instead of developing more equitable measures to increase voter participation, voter suppression laws have been passed throughout our nation to limit the opportunity to vote. This has taken the form of gerrymandering and pervasive draconian measures. Restricting voter registration, stricter voter ID laws, mass purges of voter rolls, reduced hours and locations for voting, and reducing the number of drop boxes, are but a few.
Voter intimidation and physical threats are also common, as well as making voting inconvenient. Limiting polling locations typically results in long lines and extensive waits which serve as a deterrent to those with jobs and family responsibilities. In one state, recent legislation even prohibits the distribution of water to those in line to vote.
As one contemplates the merits of early voting, and how to cast their vote for the referendum, it may be of value to expand their thinking beyond their own personal experience. One may not be convinced that it is essential to expand voting hours, but who could argue that times have changed, and that dual responsibilities of work and family pose new challenges, especially for the young. With limited income, and without extended family support, a spouse, or personal transportation, the reality of daily living can easily interfere with one’s civic responsibility.
Times have changed, but not without problems that call for solutions. In recent decades we have experienced cataclysmic social and cultural changes in work and family patterns, but our current voting laws do not reflect those changes or the needs of those who vote!
It is time to bring Connecticut’s voting laws into the 21st century and that opportunity is on the ballot on November 8. Let us think beyond our own experience and vote for expanded options for Connecticut voters in the future.
Vote “YES” for Early Voting. It is a vote for a vital and more robust democracy. We can’t afford to squander this opportunity!
Claire M. Walsh is Chair, DEMOCRACY Women In Action and a Coalition Member of Safe Vote CT.