Election Day voter registration passes; Malloy praises bill

Hartford - The state Senate gave final approval Saturday night to a bill permitting Election Day voter registration and the creation of an online registration system.

The legislation passed on a 19-16 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

"In our state, one out of every three eligible voters is not registered, and we need to do something about that," Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he will sign the bill into law gladly, allowing Election Day registration to be in effect for the fall 2013 municipal elections. The measure passed the House last week 83 to 59.

In a statement, Malloy alluded to some states that have introduced strict voter ID requirements, which critics contend suppress voter participation.

"Despite the pervasive climate across the U.S. to restrict voting rights, Connecticut has moved in the opposite direction," Malloy said, "one that ensures the integrity of our electoral process and fair, accessible elections."

Under the bill, an individual who wishes to register on Election Day must appear in person at the polls and declare under oath that he or she hasn't already voted.

The person also must present proof of address and either a birth certificate, driver's license or Social Security card. Registrars would then check a statewide database to confirm that the person is eligible.

But Senate Republicans argued the bill lacked adequate safeguards against fraud and would create confusion at the polls.

"A fraudulent vote counted is a legitimate vote denied," Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said. "It is just as wrong and just as bad as denying someone the right to vote."

Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, offered the scenario of a student from Ohio who attends college here showing up to register and vote in Connecticut on Election Day, after already voting by absentee ballot in Ohio.

McKinney said he believed the bill as written couldn't prevent that student from voting twice or his Connecticut vote from being counted, as Election Day registration ballots would not be segregated from other ballots.

Slossberg countered that there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in the state, and that the GOP's anxieties about it are overblown.

Eight states and the District of Columbia allow Election Day voter registration.

"We need to focus on the facts and not the fear," Slossberg said. "These are the same voter requirements that we've always had, we just have it on Election Day now."

The legislation also directs Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to begin work on creating an Internet-based voter registration system to allow new registrations and changes to existing registration. The system would not roll out before 2014.

j.reindl@theday.com

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