Lawmakers vote on what early voting will look like

Lawmakers vote on what early voting will look like
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 12:11 PM EDT|Updated: May. 4, 2023 at 9:29 PM EDT
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Connecticut voters have spoken, and the majority wanted early voting.

Thursday, lawmakers started to vote on what it would look like.

The early voting bill passed in the House Thursday evening. It is now headed to the Senate.

In last November’s election, 63 percent said they want more flexibility.

Connecticut was one of only four states that didn’t have some form of early voting.

“I think it’s a good idea, a lot of people are busy with their work, and it’s difficult to get to it,” said Geoff Mersfelder, Hartford.

“People in Connecticut have overwhelmingly approved early voting in the state of Connecticut, and today, we are making good on the promise,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, (D), Stamford.

The state House of Representatives considered a few options on Thursday. The options included 14 days before a general election, seven days before the August primary, four days before a special election, and four days before a presidential primary.

The goal would be to have a decision in place by Jan. 1, 2024.

Stephanie Thomas became Secretary of the State in January.

Her predecessor, Denise Merrill, fought hard for early voting.

Thomas says she heard a few concerns when she was campaigning.

“I heard a lot from young mothers, ‘My little one woke up sick, I couldn’t take them out of bed to take them to the polling place.’ So now, if something goes wrong on election day, you have other options.”

“Fourteen days is a significant amount of early voting, but it is less than the national average, which is 21 days,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, Democrat from Stamford. “So, on the one hand, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t shortchange in any way the voters on access to early voting, but we did want to make sure that we know we are starting a new thing. We wanted to make sure the system is as administrable as possible. That was the consensus.”

When it comes to absentee ballots, there would be no changes.

One of the concerns that was raised was the cost of early voting. Cities and towns would need additional staffing. The House speaker said that $8 million would be available and was part of the funding for the legislation.

Republicans feel that wasn’t enough. Plus, they raised some other concerns.

“Getting people to be able to work a poll for 14 days is going to be difficult. And so logistically we are concerned that too much has been bitten off and there should have been more baby steps with this process,” said Rep. Vinnie Candelora, (R), Minority Leader.

During the pandemic, voters had more flexibility. November’s vote of approval may have been an indication people want more options.

“I think it’s a good idea, I don’t know how others feel, but if you can vote early why not,” said Elizabeth Mermeges, West Hartford.

Lawmakers are also voting on the hours people will be able to vote.

Lawmakers begin to discuss what early voting will look like after last November's election.