With hopes for 2020 ballot question, officials raise awareness of early voting proposal
Groton — A few years back, Christine Conley was not yet on the ballot in Groton and Ledyard for state representative, but she was still nervous as Election Day approached. An attorney, she knew she would be in court representing a client in a civil trial and likely would be working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. that day.
Staring down the reasons on the absentee ballot, none of them applied: “I wasn’t in the Armed Forces, I wasn’t going to be out of town all day (I still had a busy day), I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t disabled,” Conley said.
Faced with the choice between lying on the form and not voting, Conley didn’t vote that year.
She shared this anecdote to explain her support for early voting. “I think it’s our job, in the legislature, to make it so that people who want to vote can vote,” she said.
Conley was one of four hosts of a public forum on early voting held Tuesday evening at the Groton Senior Center, along with Rep. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton; Rep. Kate Rotella, D-Stonington; and Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
The forum was held one day ahead of a public hearing on House Joint Resolution No. 161, which proposes an amendment to the state constitution to allow people to vote at least three days prior to an election, as well as no-excuse absentee voting. Any constitutional amendment must be approved in a statewide ballot referendum.
The resolution will be heard in front of the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections. As of Tuesday evening, 77 pieces of pertinent written testimony had been uploaded to the General Assembly website, and only two were opposed to the resolution.
Merrill explained that if each body of the General Assembly passes the resolution with 75 percent of the vote, the question will be on the ballot in 2020. But if the vote is between 51 and 75 percent in the legislature, the resolution has to return to the next iteration of the legislature, meaning in 2021, and the question won’t be on the ballot until 2022.
Merrill’s “favorite idea” is three days of voting, probably only at one polling place in town. Thirty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have some form of early voting, and Merrill noted that most of them do it on a place that’s already open, like a town hall or library. Texas has a month of early voting, which, in Merrill’s view, has created some problems.
More than 40 people attended the forum on Tuesday, more than usual for forums at the senior center. This included local town and city clerks, and members of the League of Women Voters.
Attendees asked questions about associated costs, who would secure the ballot boxes, what other states do, if the state could have a holiday for voting, and why there can’t be a more electronic system.
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