Mod­ify vot­ing rules

Hartford Courant - - Front Page - By Josh El­liott

It is time for real elec­toral re­form in Con­necti­cut. The old method of go­ing to the vot­ing booth on a blus­tery Tues­day in Novem­ber has be­come a thing of the past in a grow­ing num­ber of states, and for good rea­son. There are cheaper, more ef­fi­cient ways to con­duct an elec­tion. When a state im­proves on its pro­cesses, the re­sult is seen in turnout. Eas­ing up on the re­stric­tions would im­prove voter turnout In Con­necti­cut.

It is time for real elec­toral re­form in Con­necti­cut. The old method of go­ing to the vot­ing booth on a blus­tery Tues­day in Novem­ber has be­come a thing of the past in a grow­ing num­ber of states, and for good rea­son. There are cheaper, more ef­fi­cient ways to con­duct an elec­tion.

When a state im­proves on its pro­cesses, the re­sult is seen in turnout. In Colorado this year, just shy of 75 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers came out to cast a bal­lot. In Con­necti­cut it was closer to 50 per­cent. Colorado did not have the ben­e­fit of a pop­u­lar se­na­tor on the bal­lot, ei­ther. They didn’t have a se­nate race at all.

Colorado is a good model. Us­ing re­forms en­acted in Den­ver, the state im­ple­mented re­forms statewide. Per capita costs have been re­duced by a third, and Colorado con­sis­tently has the high­est turnout rates in the na­tion. And by the time Elec­tion Day rolled around in 2018, over 50 per­cent of the state’s el­i­gi­ble vot­ers had al­ready cast their bal­lots.

Here are some re­forms that we could pur­sue to im­prove the process:

Im­prove au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion. In 2016, we be­gan us­ing the DMV to regis­ter un­reg­is­tered vot­ers au­to­mat­i­cally. How­ever, not ev­ery­one drives a car, and this means a large con­tin­gent of the pub­lic isn’t get­ting au­to­mat­i­cally reg­is­tered. We could in­ter­face with the U.S. Postal Ser­vice bet­ter. When peo­ple change their ad­dresses, we could au­to­mat­i­cally add or re­move peo­ple from the vot­ing rolls. A past con­cern of mine has been that if some­one isn’t proac­tively reg­is­ter­ing, he or she will not be proac­tive about vot­ing. This is not re­flected in the num­bers — states with bet­ter auto- matic reg­is­tra­tion see higher voter turnout as a rule.

En­act no-ex­cuse ab­sen­tee mail-in bal­lots. Right now, if you want to vote ab­sen­tee, you must pro­vide a rea­son, and you must re­trieve an ab­sen­tee bal­lot from the reg­is­trar of vot­ers. Un­der an im­proved frame­work, you would re­ceive your bal­lot in the mail au­to­mat­i­cally, fill it out when con­ve­nient, sign it and send it in. A des­ig­nated team of en­forcers would be avail­able to cross-ref­er­ence the sig­na­ture with nearly 20 other sig­na­ture com­par­isons the state would have avail­able to safe­guard against fraud.

Make the sys­tem opt-out, not opt-in. This means you would re­ceive a mail-in bal­lot un­less you state specif­i­cally that you pre­fer to go to a vot­ing lo­ca­tion to vote. The ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic would like vot­ing to be eas­ier, and the fewer hoops some­one has to jump through to get their bal­lot means peo­ple will be more in­clined to have their voices heard.

Start the vot­ing pe­riod 30 days out from Elec­tion Day. This would mean fewer lines and less has­sle. You would no longer have one day to cast your bal­lot. You would be able to take your bal­lot and drop it off at an early vot­ing lo­ca­tion when­ever con­ve­nient. Then, you would re­ceive a re­ceipt by mail ac­knowl­edg­ing that your bal­lot was col­lected and counted.

Be­gin a dis­cus­sion about ranked-choice vot­ing. While this has been adopted in Maine, it’s a form of vot­ing that is only be­gin­ning to gain pop­u­lar­ity, and for good rea­son. In­stead of be­ing in­cen­tivized to vote against the per­son you don’t like, you would be able to vote for the can­di­dates that you do like, in or­der of sup­port. Ranked-choice vot­ing would elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­ity of a spoiler can­di­date, and elec­tions would be­come gen­er­ally more con­ge­nial, as no one wants to be seen as the can­di­date who is run­ning neg­a­tive.

The big­gest hur­dle we have in Con­necti­cut re­gard­ing any kind of re­form is that we need to amend our state con­sti­tu­tion to al­low for these changes. In 2015, we had our first push by get­ting new lan­guage on the bal­lot, but it failed be­cause the gov­ern­ment didn’t fully ex­plain what the mea­sure would do. This time around, we will be much more proac­tive to en­sure that peo­ple un­der­stand for what they will be vot­ing.

These changes will mean that more peo­ple will vote, the sys­tem will be cheaper, and the process will be smoother. In­er­tia remains the largest ob­sta­cle to en­act­ing mean­ing­ful elec­toral re­form.

Josh El­liott is the Demo­cratic state rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the 88th House dis­trict, which cov­ers part of Ham­den.

HART­FORD COURANT PHOTO

The old method of go­ing to the vot­ing booth on a blus­tery Tues­day in Novem­ber has be­come a thing of the past in a grow­ing num­ber of states, and for good rea­son. There are cheaper, more ef­fi­cient ways to con­duct an elec­tion.

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