Early voting initiative makes comeback in Conn.

December 21, 2016 GMT

A push to bring early voting to Connecticut — and send long lines at many polling locations the way of mechanical voting machines — is regaining momentum.

State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, this week introduced a bill, the first of the upcoming legislative session, to amend the state constitution to allow for early voting.

A similar measure was defeated by voters in 2014 during a public referendum, despite support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s top election official, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who are both Democrats.

Tong said it’s high time that Connecticut join 37 other states that allow anyone to cast their ballots before the election, not just those who meet the guidelines for obtaining an absentee ballot. The initiative comes after a record 1.7 million ballots were cast statewide in the November election, with long lines observed in many municipalities such as Bridgeport, Stamford, Fairfield, Milford, Norwalk and Danbury.


“For working people, that’s unacceptable,” Tong said. “I noticed on Election Day in some of my quieter districts that there were long lines by 6 a.m....and people were being turned away. That just struck me as not being right at all. If somebody gets up at 5 in the morning and races to vote, and they’re there by 6 or 6:15 to vote, they should get to do so.”

Tong’s proposal, which was sent to the Legislative Commissioners’ Office to be drafted, will not set a timetable or process for when the first ballots could be cast. He is leaving that up to policymakers, who he said analyze and model legislation after other states with early voting.

Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly reaffirmed the governor’s support Tuesday for early voting.

“States across the nation offer some form of early voting and Connecticut should join their ranks,” Donnelly said. “We must continue to work to modernize our election rules, remove barriers to the ballot box, and increase voter participation.”

Merrill, a proponent of same-day voter registration, which Connecticut offered for the first time in a presidential election last month, is also sticking by the concept.

“It’s great that this is getting started,” Merrill said through a spokesman. “I welcome the proposal.”

Republicans are unconvinced about the need for early voting, however.

“Right now, I have various concerns over the way voting gets done to begin with and the checks and balances...and what people need to bring to their polling places as a form of ID,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “There would have to be a lot of very strong safeguards in place for me to even consider it.”

In Connecticut, voters can sign an affidavit in lieu of presenting a valid driver’s license to poll workers. But Republicans say that the law is not applied consistently by the state’s 169 municipalities.


State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, who also represents parts of Stamford and New Canaan, was also not keen on Tong’s proposal.

“I don’t know what early voting accomplishes,” Frantz said. “I tell you, the earlier people vote, the less educated decisions they’re going to make on who to vote for.”

Frantz said Republicans aren’t trying to suppress turnout and that early voting is a nonpartisan issue.

“I think both sides agree that the more (people) who participate in democracy, the better, period,” Frantz said. “However, I think the simpler and more elegant solution to there being large crowds at polls is to be ready for them.”

Frantz said Connecticut already makes accommodations for voters to cast their ballots before Election Day.

“We have a perfectly good absentee ballot system in place,” Frantz said.

About 8 percent of voters in the state cast their votes in last month’s election by absentee ballot, which are reserved by law for members of the military, travelers, college students, homebound seniors, poll workers and persons with disabilities.

neil.vigdor@scni.com; 203-625-4436; http://twitter.com/gettinviggy