Early voting takes important next step

The News-Times - - OPINION -

The is­sue: Con­necti­cut doesn’t make voting easy. It’s one of only 12 states that doesn’t al­low early voting at the polls and in fact it’s prohibited by the state con­sti­tu­tion. Early voting has be­come an op­tion for in­creas­ing num­bers of peo­ple na­tion­wide, and last year some 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans in 38 states and the District of Columbia cast their votes in ad­vance of Elec­tion Day.

Chang­ing the state con­sti­tu­tion is not as easy as pass­ing a law, as it requires a three-fourths su­per­ma­jor­ity in both cham­bers of the state Leg­is­la­ture as well as ap­proval in a statewide ref­er­en­dum. But it’s also hardly un­prece­dented, as vot­ers just last year approved a con­sti­tu­tional change en­abling the cre­ation of a “lock­box” for trans­porta­tion-re­lated fund­ing.

In 2014, early voting made it as far as the statewide bal­lot but was de­feated in part be­cause, or­ga­niz­ers said, the lan­guage in the bill was un­clear.

What we said: “By no means does this state make voting as easy as it could be. Ex­pand­ing the fran­chise should be a pri­or­ity for the com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“That means considerin­g se­ri­ously options like

early voting; so-called ‘no-ex­cuse ab­sen­tee bal­lots,’ al­low­ing any reg­is­tered voter to re­quest an ab­sen­tee bal­lot with­out re­quir­ing a rea­son; vote-by mail; and au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion. Con­necti­cut has taken steps in the di­rec­tion of mak­ing voting eas­ier, but there is plenty of work to be done.

“Voting, af­ter all, is as fun­da­men­tal a right as ex­ists in this na­tion. All opportunit­ies to ex­pand the pool of vot­ers should be se­ri­ously con­sid­ered so ev­ery­one is rep­re­sented.”

Ed­i­to­rial, Dec. 26, 2018 What hap­pened: The pro­posal to bring early voting to Con­necti­cut re­ceived a su­per­ma­jor­ity vote of 125-24 in the Con­necti­cut House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives this week. That ex­ceeds the 75-per­cent su­per­ma­jor­ity thresh­old of 114 votes nec­es­sary for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, and in­cluded 35 of the 59 Re­pub­li­cans in at­ten­dance.

In ad­di­tion to clear­ing the way to early voting, the pro­posed change would widen the use of ab­sen­tee bal­lots, which is an­other change that has taken hold across the na­tion. Cur­rently, vot­ers need to prove they can­not cast in-per­son bal­lots on Elec­tion Day ei­ther be­cause they are phys­i­cally un­able or would be out of town. Open­ing the use of ab­sen­tee bal­lots means more peo­ple would be able to vote, widen­ing state turnout that reached about 66 per­cent last year.

What’s next: The pro­posal now heads to the state Se­nate. If it can clear the 75-per­cent thresh­old in that cham­ber, the ques­tion would be put on the 2020 bal­lot for rat­i­fi­ca­tion by vot­ers. If the Se­nate does not clear that bar, the soon­est that early voting could go on the state bal­lot would be 2022.

The Se­nate needs to fol­low the House’s lead. There’s no rea­son Con­necti­cut should be be­hind the times on voting rights, and the state should do what­ever it can to bring more peo­ple into the process. The state must also en­sure proper safe­guards are in place, but there is sim­ply no rea­son to lag be­hind the rest of the na­tion in this vi­tal area.

There’s no rea­son Con­necti­cut should be be­hind the times on voting rights, and the state should do what­ever it can to bring more peo­ple into the process.

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