Inside Look: The Early Voting question on the Nov. 8th ballot

Ask The Registrar

Your place for answers about voting and local elections in Stratford

By Registrar Of Voters James Simon (D). October 2022

Q: They want us to vote on a Constitutional amendment on Nov. 8th, but I know nothing about it. Explain, please.

In the Fall 2022 election voters are being asked: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting.”

An estimated 44 states – red and blue alike – now allow early, no-excuse voting, whether by expanded mail-in ballots, going to a centralized polling place and casting a ballot before the official Election Day, or some other method.

The Connecticut ballot question is needed because the state constitution specifically refers to “… the meetings of the electors in the respective towns held quadrennially…”  That language, and other references, have been interpreted as referring to a “specific election day” and limiting early voting to absentee ballots that can only be used under specific circumstances.

Nationwide, early voting is far more popular than you may think. One survey found that in the 2020 presidential election, 69% of participants cast their vote by mail or early in-person vs. 30% casting their vote in-person on Election Day. The U.S. Census Bureau reported the share of early and absentee voting grew from 10.5% in 1996 to 69.4% in 2020, according to Ballotpedia.com, which is the source for most of the information here on other states.

Q: Given the popularity elsewhere, is the Connecticut question expected to pass?

It’s unclear. In 2014, Connecticut voters defeated a constitutional amendment that would have authorized the state legislature to allow early voting in the state and remove the restrictions on absentee voting. The question was defeated by a 52-48 percent margin.

This year, widespread support for the question has emerged among elected leaders, voting experts like former Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill, and good government groups like the League of Women Voters.

Q: Why do they support it?

Supporters say the move will make voting more accessible to every eligible Connecticut citizen and increase turnout.   Spreading out voters across multiple days reduces the risk of long lines on Election Day. It reduces the chance of exposure to COVID at polling places. Other states have learned how to implement it without additional cost. At a time when too many states are making it harder to vote, Connecticut has a chance to be a leader in expanding the right to vote and making our democracy accessible to all citizens, supporters say.

Q: What do opponents say?

A survey by Ballotpedia found little organized opposition. State Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R) has said the bill was too broad. She said, “[Early voting] must be done in the right way, there must be protections in place and there must be checks and balances in there. Until we do that– or at least make a step in the right direction to do that, I could not support this.”

In the legislative debate, the question did attract support from some Republican lawmakers.  House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R) has said he is in favor of early voting, but not expanding the eligibility for absentee ballots.

Q: If approved, what will early voting look like in Connecticut?

When the Legislature approved the ballot question, lawmakers followed a two-step process of

  1. a) first seeking voter approval, and, if approved, then
  2. b) meeting thereafter and deciding what form of early voting would be best for Connecticut.

There is a range of options. In some states, voters can go to a central polling location for, say, a week before Election Day and cast a ballot. In Oregon, all voting is done by mail-in ballot.

Any Connecticut change is not expected to take effect until November 2024.

More Questions? Please send them to Registrar Jim Simon; jsimon@townofstratford.com. This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford. (Vol. 2, No. 10; Oct. 2022)

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