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    Friday, September 22, 2023

    Improve democracy by approving voting reforms in Connecticut

    It’s time to set the record straight: Voting in Connecticut is overwhelmingly safe and secure; it is administered by election professionals from both major parties.

    Whether in-person, by mail, or placed in drop boxes in each municipality across the state, Connecticut voters turned out in record numbers for the November 2020 election. The turnout, 79.7%, was the highest in Connecticut’s history, thanks to an executive order issued by the governor and affirmed by the legislature allowing any voter to vote by absentee ballot. But because of our state’s restrictive absentee ballot laws, this was only allowed under these special circumstances.

    Now the legislature has an opportunity to extend these changes and make no-excuse absentee ballots and early voting a reality in Connecticut by amending the state Constitution. Final approval of the amendments would rest with voters.

    In the past few weeks, there have been many instances of false, out of date, and misleading statements made about how Connecticut’s elections are conducted. Misinformation is dangerous because it undermines our democracy and election administration — a process that has multiple checks and balances to ensure that only eligible voters can take part.

    The following are some facts about how things work in Connecticut.

    Suggestions that an absentee ballot application automatically becomes an actual vote are false.

    An absentee ballot is only mailed after a completed and signed application has been reviewed and verified by the Town Clerk and the Registrar of Voters to make sure that the voter is on the Active Voter List. If the voter’s information cannot be verified, the application is rejected and the voter is notified that in order to vote by absentee they must provide more proof of their town residency.

    No, voter rolls do not get grossly out of date.

    Connecticut’s voter rolls are continuously updated throughout the year. By state law, registrars are required to mail annual notices to every voter making sure that they still reside at that address. Registrars use the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address system and participate in the national Electronic Registration Information Center, which notifies the state when a Connecticut resident has registered to vote in a different state.

    When is a voter put on the inactive list?

    In Connecticut, if a voter hasn’t voted in several election cycles, or not responded to mail sent by the registrars (returned as “Undeliverable” by the post office), they may be placed on the Inactive List rather than removed from the voter rolls entirely. The only other way to remove a voter is when they die, and town clerks (who are in charge of vital records) share this information regularly with the registrars. A voter on the Inactive List may still vote in-person or by absentee ballot as long as they can provide current information that they still reside at that address.

    A few other myths about voting in Connecticut: There has never been widespread voter fraud. In fact, over the past 40 years, there have been fewer than 300 filed referrals made to the State Elections Enforcement Commission related to absentee ballots, an average of seven complaints a year — with the majority being mistakes made by individuals in a single household, none of which changed the result of any contest or constituted widespread anything.

    The public should feel confident and assured that every time there is a reported irregularity, the Office of Secretary of the State has enacted changes to strengthen the system and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. In addition, because Connecticut uses paper ballots, there is a verifiable paper trail that allows the state to conduct audits after each election to ensure the accuracy of our opti-scan machines.

    For over 100 years, the mission of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut has been to register and educate eligible citizens with the goal of increasing participation in our democracy. It is time for the “land of steady habits” to enter the 21st century and give Connecticut voters more freedom as to how and when they can vote by offering them no-excuse absentee ballots and additional days of early, in-person voting.

    The League of Women Voters of Connecticut overwhelmingly supports resolutions HJ-58 to allow no-excuse absentee voting and HJ-59 to allow for early voting. If these proposed state constitutional amendments are approved by the legislature, the final decision will rest with the voters at referendum.

    We ask voters to reach out to their legislators and urge them to vote “yes” on these resolutions to change the Connecticut Constitution and allow the voters to decide.

    Democracy wins when we all participate.

    Carol Reimers is president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Laura Smits the vice president in charge of voter services, and Judy Lhamon vice president in charge of advocacy.

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