Ellie Coffey readies “I Voted” stickers to hand out to voters as they leave the Stonington Borough Fire House in Stonington’s 1st District. All five of the Connecticut’s congressional districts are on the ballot, along with high-profile contests for governor, U.S. Senate, statewide candidates for constitutional office and dozens of General Assembly seats. Greg Miller / CT Public

The legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee gathered public testimony Monday for a bill that would allow all people to vote while they’re incarcerated.

House Bill 5702, the bill under consideration, doesn’t yet contain exhaustive language specifying what else it would accomplish.

Public testimony in opposition to the legislation overwhelmingly focused on a desire to reserve voting for “law-abiding citizens,” as one written testimony read, but people in support of the bill pushed back against that line of thinking.

“Disenfranchisement has preceded all criminal activity,” said James Jeter of the Full Citizens Coalition, a group focused on undoing the harm caused by felony disenfranchisement. He’s also formerly incarcerated. “I know that this is a hard bill, but it’s also the right bill. We have to start undoing the embedded racism in our system. It’s not about an individual, it’s about the processes that created this.”

Currently, incarcerated people convicted of a misdemeanor, along with people who haven’t been sentenced, can vote through an absentee ballot.

Stephanie Thomas, the state’s top election official, publicly testified at Monday’s hearing in support of various bills but didn’t comment on expanding voting access for people behind bars — the majority of whom are Black.

In recent years, Connecticut has passed laws that expanded ballot access to people on parole, abolished prison gerrymandering and allowed free phone calls from prison.

If the bill discussed Monday passed through the legislature, the “Land of Steady Habits” would become the fourth place to allow all incarcerated people to vote – joining Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C.


Jaden is CT Mirror's justice reporter. He was previously a summer reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune and interned at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He received a bachelor's degree in electronic media from Texas State University and a master's degree in investigative journalism from the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.