Senate Democrat proposes bill requiring mandatory voting in elections by 2024; $20 fine or community service for those who don’t vote or explain why

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Michael Hamad, Hartford Courant
·2 min read
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Should Connecticut residents be required to vote in upcoming elections?

It’s a question that surfaced recently when state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, introduced Proposed Senate Bill 180, which Haskell and former Secretary of State Miles Rappaport discussed in a recent Courant op-ed.

“Much like jury duty, voting should be considered not just an opportunity but a patriotic obligation,” Haskell and Rappaport wrote.

Beginning with the 2024 presidential election, the bill would require all qualified voters to cast a ballot or provide a valid reason why they won’t. Excuses could include travel, illness, conscientious objection or anything else the Office of the Secretary of the State deems valid.

Under the proposal, voters who don’t vote or explain why would be subject to a $20 fine payable to the Secretary of the State — money that would go into the Citizens’ Election Fund — without criminal offense or denial of government benefits for anyone who doesn’t comply. (Violators could also choose to serve two hours of community service if they don’t want to pay the $20.)

“The purpose of this policy isn’t to impose fines,” Haskell and Rappaport wrote, “rather, it is to make a societal commitment to universal participation. ... In the conversation about building a better democracy, let’s think big about how to build a government that reflects the will of all the people. Let’s affirm that voting is both a right and a duty.”

There are currently 22 nations with compulsory voting, according to WorldAtlas.com, though enforcement exists in only 11 of those countries. Australia, Luxembourg, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Belgium all have some sort of mandatory voting.

And while no U.S. states have anything similar in place, Haskell and Rappaport argue that Connecticut could be a leader.

“Connecticut has made real progress, but it is still playing catch-up in several areas when it comes to our voting laws,” they said. “The 2020 elections have been a clarion call across the country to seriously think about our voting processes.”

Michael Hamad can be reached at mhamad@courant.com.