It's still easier to vote in Georgia than here. Change that.
Even with the more restrictive voting laws recently passed in Georgia, it is still harder to vote in Connecticut. That’s an embarrassment that needs to change. Appropriately enough, Connecticut voters may soon get to decide whether to improve access to voting in the state.
It is important to note that the two states are moving in different directions.
Georgia had some of the most lenient laws to make voting easy and accessible. And they worked. The Peach State has seen major turnouts in recent elections. But the Republican-controlled legislature has not been happy with the results, with the state going for President Biden and sending two Democratic senators to Washington. Now Georgia has added restrictions, which are seen as more likely to decrease Black and low-income votes, hurting Democrats.
In contrast, there are several initiatives in the Connecticut General Assembly that would expand access to and ease of voting.
Yet, even after the recent changes in law, voting in Georgia can still begin up to 19 days before Election Day. In Connecticut there are no provisions for early voting.
And Georgia voters don’t need to provide a reason for choosing the ease of using an absentee ballot rather than showing up at the polls. In Connecticut, under penalty of law, a voter has to affirm they face one of the mandated reasons that allow use of an absentee ballot —you are traveling, or are ill, or serving in the military.
For the 2020 election cycle, the General Assembly did expand the illness exception to include the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus, allowing anyone to utilize an absentee ballot. But barring any changes, Connecticut will return to the restrictive absentee rules for future elections.
Connecticut’s restrictive voting laws are grounded in its Constitution, which both limits voting to Election Day and mandates the reasons for allowing use of an absentee ballot. Two initiatives now under consideration in the state legislature could mean major changes for voting in Connecticut.
A measure to amend the Constitution to allow the legislature to set rules for early voting was approved in a prior session by the House and Senate. If a simple majority again approves it this session, which appears a certainty, it will go to the voters in November 2022.
If voters OK the amendment, it would be up to the legislature to set the guidelines for early voting, including how early. Many Republicans have argued the terms should be part of the amendment. The problem with that approach is the standard would be locked in. Tweaking it would require going through the multistep process to again amend the state constitution. That seems unreasonable. Better to leave such details to the legislature.
Also on the legislative agenda is a proposal to allow no-excuse absentee voting. That too could be presented to the voters in 2022, but only if the provision is approved by at least a three-fourths vote this session. If that threshold is not met, the legislature would again have to approve it in a later session, meaning the earliest voters would get their say would be in November 2024.
Republicans should join Democrats in sending the no-excuse amendment to voters along with the early-voting proposal in November 2022. It is hard to see why letting voters make the decision would be a bad choice. If there is a reason why some Republicans feel easing access to absentee ballots is the wrong move, they can make their case directly to the voters.
The sooner Connecticut can get out of its glasshouse on the issue of voting, the better.
Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.
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