Connecticut House approves early voting bill

Next year, general election early voting would run from Oct. 21 through Nov. 3.

John Craven

May 4, 2023, 9:55 PM

Updated 348 days ago


The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill creating early in-person voting Wednesday evening. Casting a ballot would be more convenient, but Republican leaders claim the legislation stacks the deck against them.
“It's written for the Democrat party. It's not written for democracy,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the House GOP leader.
Beginning in 2024, voting would begin up to two weeks early:
Presidential primaries (April): Four days Special elections: Four days State primaries (August): Seven days General election (November): 14 days
Next year, general election early voting would run from Oct. 21 through Nov. 3. In 2024, residents will decide on a new president, U.S. senator, congressional representatives and the entire Connecticut General Assembly.
“It's going to allow you to go in person,” said state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford). “You will not need any excuse.”
Why 14 days of early voting? Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas recommended just 10 days, but House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said they wanted to give voters a little more time.
“We’ve sought the most expansive version that grants the most people the most flexibility to vote possible, while also seeking to ensure that the system is administrable,” he said.
Some states offer more than a month of early voting, while others allow just three days.
The biggest change is where you cast your ballot. On Election Day, it's usually at a few different schools. But with early voting, it will be somewhere else – probably a town hall or a community center – and in most towns, there will only be one polling place. But larger communities have the option of adding more locations.
Early voting hours would be limited – just 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days, with four extra hours on the final Tuesday and Thursday.
Ballots would be kept in sealed envelopes at the local town clerk’s office and not counted until the morning of Election Day, along with absentee ballots.
“I think in the minds of the people, they think that I'm going to going to go in and vote early just like just like I do on Election Day,” said state Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-Wolcott). “This process is very much different than that. It's really like voting by absentee ballot.”
Mastrofrancesco and other GOP lawmakers accused Democrats of limiting the hours on purpose to gain a political advantage, noting that most commuters can’t vote – and may not even be in state – during office hours.
“Five days during the week is limited to just town hall hours, so what type of demographic in this catering to?” said Candelora.
But Democrats insist that early voting offers more flexibility, including weekends.
“For that working mother who has two jobs, we're making sure she can vote,” said Ritter.
Voter registrars from both parties are worried about how much early voting will cost. A nonpartisan fiscal analysis puts the price tag at up to $9.2 million. Ritter said Thursday that the final state budget would likely include at least $8 million.
“Staffing is probably the biggest issue for early voting.” said Ron Malloy, Stamford’s Democratic registrar. “We're going to have it. And the question will be, what's the smart way to have staffing?”
Registrars were also concerned about using early voting for local referendums, which have tight turnaround times, but lawmakers exempted those elections.
Early voting won't happen until 2024 because lawmakers did not pass legislation in time. Thomas said vendors need more time for upgrades to the state voting is needed to make sure people don't vote twice.
“The biggest sticking point was with the third-party vendor – making sure they had enough time to build out the infrastructure that would make sure that the early voting ballots could be recorded securely,” she said.
Connecticut is one of the only states left without early voting. That’s because the state constitution didn’t allow it – until voters approved an amendment last fall.
In 2024, voters will likely decide on another proposed amendment to remove restrictions on absentee ballots. Right now, voters must offer a reason – like being ill or out of state – to vote by mail. However, lawmakers recently expanded the definition of “sickness” to include general illness in the population, making it much easier to cast an absentee ballot.
After House approval, early voting legislation heads to the state Senate for a likely vote next week.

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