Lawmakers considering whether to extend COVID voting rules
HARTFORD — With a handful of special elections coming up, Connecticut lawmakers will likely soon decide whether to again give all eligible voters the option of voting absentee to avoid the polls during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee voted Wednesday to take up the issue as a “concept," a move that could ultimately lead to a bill being drafted and voted on during the early weeks of the new legislative session.
“Members of this committee and members of the General Assembly's leadership have been contacted by many folks, and concerns have been expressed in particular by the Secretary of the State's office, with regard to special elections that are happening in February,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, the committee's co-chair.
She noted special elections are planned for an open state Senate seat and an open first selectman position, and there may be some other upcoming special elections. Additionally, a handful of municipal elections are held in May.
“There was some urgency around extending the law that was passed last year in the special session, in July, to change our absentee ballot process," Flexer said. “There is a lot of concern that voters got used the protocols" used in the November 2020 election and won't be able to vote absentee again in the special elections.
Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, the top House Republican on the committee, said she had “a lot of concerns” about the expanded use of absentee ballots when the concept was first proposed during the summer. She said she's “very hesitant” about moving forward with it again this time.
“We were in a different place then as we are now,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of voters cast ballots in the November general election by absentee, an historic number that was prompted by legislation that made COVID-19 an allowable excuse. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Connecticut limited allowances for absentee voting to specific things like being out-of-state on Election Day or serving as an active duty military service member.
Connecticut still continues to see more probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19. The number has climbed by more than 3,500 since Tuesday. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths increased from Tuesday to Wednesday by 87, for a total of 6,536 people.
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