State backs early voting. Time to set the rules.
Voting will be more convenient for Connecticut citizens in future elections, a welcomed development that should increase participation.
Voters gave solid approval of early voting in the Nov. 8 election. The question asking whether to amend the state constitution to allow the legislature to create some form of early in-person voting won 60% to 40% approval.
It is now up to the legislature to set the rules.
While many Republicans opposed the ballot question, we urge them — given the decisive verdict by voters — to join the Democratic majority in a bipartisan effort to set the parameters for future voting. Likewise, Democrats should consider the arguments presented by the loyal opposition and not use their majority to steamroll the rules as they see fit.
Republican opposition centered on two points: the fact the constitutional amendment did not define precisely how early voting would take place; and the potential for it to become an unfunded mandate on municipalities.
Spelling out the exact terms of early voting in the constitution would have created an unnecessary hinderance. Though commonplace throughout the country (only a handful of states restrict in-person voting to Election Day), this is new territory for Connecticut. The legislature may want to tweak early voting rules based on how things go. Requiring the amendment of the constitution for such adjustments just did not make sense.
Republicans are right in their concern about early voting becoming another unfunded mandate. Legislation passed in the coming session should include state funding to defray the cost towns and cities will incur to staff early voting centers.
When should voting begin? About a week before Election Day, would be our suggestion. This should include weekend voting before Election Day. The purpose is to make voting more convenient for citizens, boosting turnout. Some states begin in-person voting several weeks before Election Day. That approach, however, would significantly add to the expense. A week to 10 days would provide ample time to get to a polling place and participate in our democracy.
Likely next up is approval by the legislature, for a second time, of a proposed amendment to allow no-excuse absentee voting. That approval would send the question to voters. The state constitution now restricts absentee voting to illness, disability, military service, or absence from your place of residence. Voters should have the option of absentee voting without having to produce an explanation. And, when given the chance, we are confident voters will approve the change to no-excuse absentee voting.
Candidates and their political parties ought to engage in vigorous debates as to why voters should back their respective approaches to governance. But all should be on the same page in welcoming greater voter participation in that process.