EDITORIAL: Let Connecticut voters decide voting reform measures in 2022

The Day, New London, Conn.
·4 min read

Feb. 24—The Connecticut General Assembly has the opportunity to present to voters in 2022 two proposed constitutional amendments that would make voting easier in the state. Polling suggests citizens in Connecticut want more options than the state's same-day voting and restrictive absentee rules now provide.

There is no good reason lawmakers should deny voters the opportunity to make this decision as soon as possible.

Connecticut has among the most restrictive voting rules in the country. The state Constitution only allows in-person voting on Election Day. And absentee ballots can normally be used only if a person is sick or disabled or out of town on Election Day.

For the historic 2020 election, held during a pandemic, the legislature voted to temporarily broaden the definition of "sickness" to also mean a fear of getting sick, such as through exposure to COVID-19. Connecticut voters responded, with nearly 660,000 voting by absentee, 35% of the total vote and 10 times the typical number of absentee ballots cast.

Connecticut should not go backward and again make it harder to vote after the health crisis eases.

Two amendments are under debate.

The first would ask, "Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?"

This question appears almost certain to be on the ballot in 2022. It was approved by the House and Senate in 2019, but due to Republican opposition in the Senate, it failed to get the 75% approval necessary to immediately move it to the 2020 ballot. However, if it passes again this year, which appears certain given the large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, it will be on the ballot in 2022.

Criticism of the early-voting amendment is that it does not include specifics, such as how early voting would begin. Such details would later be determined by the legislature, if the amendment is approved. This is how it should be. Cluttering the Constitution with chapter and verse as to how the early voting would work would be a mistake, requiring a later amendment to make small shifts, such as adjusting by a day or two when voting starts.

A second provision would amend the state Constitution to allow no-excuse absentee balloting. In other words, if you wanted to use an absentee ballot, you could do so without having to produce an explanation.

Democrats and Republicans alike should support this provision, leading to the 75% threshold needed to also get this question on the ballot in 2022, alongside the early-voting question. This only makes sense. Otherwise, the absentee question would have to wait at least until 2024.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and voting officials across the state proved in November that expanded absentee balloting can be done without diminishing the integrity of the process. This should not be shocking, given that Utah, Colorado and Oregon conduct their elections almost fully by mail.

Connecticut's restrictive voting rules make us an outlier, with 43 states now allowing early voting and/or no-excuse absentee ballots.

Making voting easier makes voting fairer. Voters who have to juggle multiple jobs, or who rely on bus rides, or have kids to shuttle around, or who are elderly and have trouble getting out, are all disadvantaged by the existing restrictions. Supply more chances to vote and more people will vote, which should be celebrated.

Cynically, Republican state lawmakers across the country, after seeing former President Donald Trump's defeat and losing control of the U.S. Senate, have filed legislative proposals to make voting more difficult. GOP lawmakers in at least 33 states have submitted more than 100 bills to tighten voting rules, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

In Georgia, for example, Republicans want to dismantle voting policies that contributed to record turnout in 2020. Record turnout means the policies worked! Why repeal them?

Apparently because Joe Biden won Georgia and Democrats Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won the state's Senate seats. Now state Republican lawmakers, rather than evaluate how they can win more support — particularly in the Black community — instead want fewer people voting, particularly Black people.

Republican lawmakers in the Peach State have introduced legislation to ban drop boxes, end automatic voter registration and Sunday voting, and repeal no-excuse absentee ballots, among other proposed changes.

Connecticut Republicans should send a different message and join Democrats in dismantling voting roadblocks, and then get out there and compete for those votes.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.