Week in CT News: early voting may arrive for 2024 election, ‘Randy Cox bill’
State House passes Early Voting bill
A bill establishing 14 days of in-person voting prior to Election Day in Connecticut advanced in the state legislature Thursday.
“Ultimately, this bill is about one fundamental principle: increasing access to voters and the franchise in the state of Connecticut as much as we can,” Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford) said Thursday, moments before lawmakers in the state house chamber voted in favor of an early voting proposal.
A majority of state representatives, 107 of 142, supported the early voting bill. The vote by lawmakers followed a statewide referendum of Connecticut voters in November where 60 % of ballots were cast in favor of early voting.
Included in the majority were 15 Republicans. But, much of the opposition comes from that party.
Republican state representatives expressed concern Thursday over the cost of 14 days of early voting, ballot security, and hours of operation.
“One of the more disappointing aspects about this piece of legislation is,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) Thursday, “despite the fact that the catalyst to allow for this constitutional amendment had bipartisan support, the legislation that we’re voting on today did not have bipartisan input and so, my ‘no vote’ today is really a rejection of this process and not a rejection of early voting.”
The state legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis said earlier this year that the implementation of early voting would cost the state $1.8 to $2.3 million. Now, it says the latest proposal would cost the state about $550,000 less.
The Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut tells Connecticut Public that the money for early voting is covered in the new proposed two-year state budget and by other sources.
“We have and continue to work closely with Secretary [of the State Stephanie] Thomas and other groups to secure funding so the towns don’t end up with the burden of the costs,” said association president Chris Prue in a statement emailed to Connecticut Public.
The bill must now make it through the state senate. A representative of Democratic state senators in Connecticut tells Connecticut Public Radio that there is no timeline yet for that vote.
Seat belt bill is a nod to a Black man paralyzed while in the custody of the New Haven police
Also Thursday in the state house, lawmakers passed a bill that could prevent further injury to Connecticut residents in the custody of local law enforcement – a proposal some Democratic lawmakers have dubbed “The Randy Cox bill.”
“We will put this bill in the category of ‘bills we wish we didn’t have to pass but unfortunately, do’, given certain recent events, particularly the instance of Randy Cox and the tragedy that happened down in New Haven,” Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport) said Thursday.
Randy Cox is paralyzed from the chest down as a result of injuries suffered while in the custody of New Haven police in June of 2022. Cox was in a police van that had no seat belts. He got hurt when a driver braked hard to avoid a collision.
The measure requires municipal law enforcement agencies adopt a seat belt policy that’d be established by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council. It’s supposed to outline what happens if departments violate the policy.
As a result of the June 2022 incident, five New Haven police officers have been criminally charged and the Department’s chief has recommended four of them be fired.
Cox is suing the city of New Haven for $100 million.
If passed by the state senate, the law would go into effect on July 1. Then, local police would have until April 1, 2024 to adopt their own written policies that are reflective of the one handed down from the POST Council.
Frankie & Johnny premieres Fridays at 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on Connecticut Public Radio. The Associated Press contributed to this report.