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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Easier voting, step 1

    Connecticut should join the majority of states in making it easier for citizens to vote. That can only happen, however, if on Nov. 4 voters approve an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution.

    Question 1 asks: "Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?"

    The Day recommends a yes vote.

    Unlike other states, Connecticut's voting restrictions are embedded in the Constitution. Approving the amendment will not immediately change anything, but it will allow a debate to begin as to whether the way people vote in Connecticut should change.

    The Constitution now limits voting to "the day of the election." The only exception is using absentee ballots. However, the state Constitution strictly limits them as well. A voter can cast an absentee ballot only due to "absence from the city or town of which they are inhabitants or because of sickness or physical disability or because the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity."

    With these constitutional constraints lifted, the legislature could consider changes that would allow a voter to pick up and use an absentee ballot for any reason. It would open up the possibility of approving laws that would permit early voting, voting by mail or remote electronic voting. Any changes would only occur after a public debate, action by the legislature and the signature of the governor. And none of it can happen until the Constitution is amended.

    This newspaper is not prepared to endorse any specific changes in Connecticut's voting laws until it hears proposals and considers the pros and cons. But there is no question that Connecticut is now an outlier. Thirty-five states allow for early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, a combination of the two, or voting by mail.

    For many, Tuesday is a workday. Even people with the best of intentions can find the day quickly passes by due to work and family obligations, only realizing too late they did not get to the polls in time.

    Improving voting convenience should increase voter participation, and that's a good thing. But the process must begin with the constitutional amendment.

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