Reforms to Voting Laws Considered

March 15, 2012

Voting is an essential American right. Many of us exercise this right on a yearly basis, whether we vote for local, state or national candidates. The decisions made during elections can affect our lives much more than one might think. From tax rates to regulations, different policies are created and enacted each and every year. In our state, the chief elections officer is the Secretary of the State, who prepares for and oversees the operations of primaries and elections. In recent weeks, the Secretary of the State and the Governor have proposed some voting reforms that would change current law. Of the numerous proposals that have been discussed, I will share some of them with you here.

One proposal is House Bill 5024 called “An Act Concerning Voting Rights.” This bill contains a series of new laws, including the implementation of Election Day registration, establishing an online registration system for eligible voters with identification, and connecting the voter registration database to the Department of Motor Vehicles database. Although it may be well-intentioned, I have some concerns over Election Day registration. Since there are numerous opportunities to register in person or by mail in the days and weeks leading up to an election, I believe that the current system is adequate. However, the provision supporting online voter registration could increase efficiency and ensure greater accuracy, and it should be considered.

Another proposal is Raised Bill 212 called “An Act Concerning Provisional Ballots For State And Municipal Elections.” This would allow voters whose names do not appear on official registration lists to be able to cast votes for local and statewide candidates. Currently, this voting option is only available for federal candidates. These provisional ballots would be counted in the six days following an election, but they would only end up affecting the final results if the vote total was close. There are some concerns over counting these votes without being properly vetted. A similar bill was debated last year but was voted down. I do not support this bill.

A third proposal is House Joint Resolution 2 called a “Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution To Allow For No-Excuse Absentee Voting.” It would ultimately remove restrictions on voting by absentee ballot. If you have ever needed to request an absentee ballot to vote in the past, you are likely familiar with the requirements. According to the Secretary of the State website, those who may vote by absentee ballot must list an excuse, including being “ill; physically disabled; serving in the military; those who will be out of town on election day; those providing service as poll worker in polling places other than their own; or those whose religion forbids secular activity on election day.”

While it sounds like a good idea, this measure would need to gain the support of three-quarters of the General Assembly before heading to the polls in November to be voted on by voters. Once ratified as a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have to create new voting options, including early voting, regional voting, mail-in voting or no-excuse absentee ballots.

A fourth proposal is Senate Bill 218 called “An Act Concerning Polling Places For Primaries.” This measure would allow small towns under the size of 20,000 residents to reduce the number of polling places that are used during primaries. If there is a history of lower voter participation, this measure could save towns money that is used to prepare for the contests. Many registrars of voters have also supported this proposal as a smart policy. In these times of fiscal discipline, I believe it is worth considering as well.

These are only some of the bills that have been proposed regarding voting laws, but it is important to be aware of them. Ultimately, we must ensure that our elections remain reliable and highly regarded by members of the public. While some of these proposals have the potential to make voting easier for Connecticut residents, I have concerns about others. They will be debated and discussed throughout the legislative session, and I will certainly share these thoughts with other legislators. For more information on these and other matters regarding the Office of the Secretary of the State, please visit their website at