HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – A hearing took place on Monday and discussed two bills, one that would allow early voting and another that would expanded access to absentee ballots in Connecticut.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill testified in support of the two proposals.
The public hearing, which was attended by hundreds of Connecticut voters, advocates, and associations, kicked off at 10:30 a.m.
“Connecticut voters deserve the opportunity to vote by the method of their choice – in-person in a polling place, in-person before Election Day, or by absentee ballot without needing an excuse – just like the voters in 43 other states,” said Secretary of the state Denise Merrill. “In 2020, through the hard work of local election officials of both parties, Connecticut proved that we can allow our voters to choose to vote conveniently. It is time to remove the remaining obstacle from the constitution to make this a reality for future elections.”
The hearing came on the heels of a letter to legislative leaders which called for a historic voting rights agenda in the 2021 legislative session.
November's election was unusual. People didn't have to go to the polls to vote. Instead, they were able to drop off absentee ballots in these boxes all over the state.
"Forty-three states currently allow their voters to vote in person prior to Election Day vote by ‘no-excuse absentee ballot,’" Merrill said.
The secretary of the state and several groups are pushing for Connecticut to join most states. A poll by Secure Democracy showed 79 percent of voters support early voting. Seventy-three percent of voters support a no excuse absentee ballot. The largest support is among those 65 and up and 18-to-34-year-olds.
To do this, there needs to be a change in the state constitution.
"The thing about the constitution is it requires a significant effort to make a change,” said Sen. Rob Sampson, a Republican from Wolcott. “You got to have a three quarters majority, or two consecutive legislatures agree."
However, the legislature would not have the final say. That would be up to voters.
Republicans also feel early voting could make some worry about fraud.
Despite a record number of voters using absentee ballots in Connecticut during the past election, the secretary of the state said we saw very few irregularities.
"I just think it’s easier for a lot of people,” Delores Laurito, a voter from Rocky Hill. “People are very transient today, they're busy, they work out of state sometimes. I just think it would be easy."
If these House of Representatives bills pass, voters would have the final say.
If the vote gets a super majority, it would be on the ballot in 2022. Without a super majority, it wouldn't be on the ballot until 2024.