How long should early voting run? State lawmakers weigh options

Legislators are considering three different bills to launch early voting with this fall’s municipal elections.

John Craven

Feb 22, 2023, 10:46 PM

Updated 461 days ago


Early voting is finally coming to Connecticut, but how long should it be offered? State lawmakers considered several options at a hearing Wednesday, but each carries logistical challenges.
Some voters want early voting to run at least two weeks.
“Definitely 14 days,” said Stacey Sawyer, of Norwalk.
Jim Dombroski, of Norwalk, went even further.
“At least a month,” he said. “Why not a month?”
Legislators are considering three different bills to launch early voting with this fall’s municipal elections. This year, Election Day is Nov. 7. Under one proposal, early voting would start Oct. 19 this year, running a total of 18 days. Another bill would begin on Oct. 23 of this year – 14 days total. The last option would run for just 10 days, starting on Oct. 27.
The new Secretary of the State, Democrat Stephanie Thomas, prefers the last option.
“Everyone wanted weekend time, so it seemed to me that the weekend would be the most valuable, so I expanded it to the weekend prior. So that's how I arrived at the 10 days,” Thomas told the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee.
Some groups are pushing for close to a month of early voting.
“Almost half the states with early voting provide between two to three weeks, and states with the highest rates of early voting fall within this range,” said Jess Zaccagnino, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.
But in small towns like Ridgefield, leaders want to start slow with just five days.
“I think we need to take our time, study the issue, and perhaps walk into it. Let's not sprint,” said Republican First Selectman Rudy Marconi. “And don't look to implement it right away. You know, maybe just try a couple of towns the first year, the second year, the third year.”
Marconi said it’s already difficult to find poll workers on Election Day itself.
And then there's the issue of where to vote early. All three proposals call for just one location in smaller communities. Cities and towns with more than 45,000 residents could petition Thomas’ office for permission to offer additional sites.
“We should have quite a few locations because Norwalk is not that big, but it is big,” said Sawyer.
But voter registrars warned lawmakers that more polling places pose a logistical challenge.
“In our town, we use the senior center and a school,” said Elisa Beckett-Flores, New Fairfield’s Democratic registrar. “And much to the dismay of my second grader, I can't cancel school to use the school as another polling location.”
Under all three bills, early voting would run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., with extra hours on the Wednesday and Thursday before Election Day.
“That's not enough because you can't do anything if you have a working schedule,” said Bobby Hanson, of Easton.
Lawmakers also had numerous questions about ballot security. Thomas said early voting ballots would be sealed and stored at town clerk's offices – and not counted until the morning of Election Day.

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