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Public sounds off on CT lawmakers' proposals for early voting

Election Officials Count Ballots in Trumbull
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Election official Glen Johnson pulls a list of ballot counts out of a tabulator machine after the polls closed at the Christian Heritage School polling place in Trumbull, Conn. on Nov. 8, 2022.

Connecticut voters already approved a constitutional amendment to allow early voting in the state, but it’s up to lawmakers to decide how it will work.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee held a public hearing on the implementation of in-person early voting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as well as a ballot measure to allow voters to decide in 2024 whether to allow no-excuse voting by mail.

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, the state’s top election official, testified in support of a 10 days of early voting and the proposed constitutional amendment to allow for no-excuse absentee ballots. Competing proposals from Hartford lawmakers called for 14 or 18 days of early voting.

“I have spent the past year, and certainly the past six weeks, going out of my way to speak with as many election workers – registrars and town clerks – as possible,” Thomas said. “They know how to do this and have no doubts they can do it as long as the equipment and funding are provided so their town doesn’t have to suffer unnecessarily.”

Thomas asked the state to fund early voting so that municipalities are not forced to cover the costs of staff, training, ballots, security, technological upgrades, and more.

Ed Hawthorne, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, which represents over 200,000 workers in the state, testified in support of legislative proposals to allow 14 days of early voting. He said it’s important to make voting as easy as possible for state residents.

“Because it is our constitutional right and arguably one of the most important things we do,” Hawthorne said.

“This is definitely a smart way to spend our tax dollars,” Hawthorne said. “I don't think anyone's going to object to funding to ensure that our elections are run smoothly.”

Hawthorne told lawmakers he supports the effort to let voters decide whether to allow no-excuse absentee ballot voting, because the process ran smoothly in 2020.

During that election, an early pandemic-era state order allowed any registered voter to mail in their ballot, if they feared contracting an illness like COVID-19 at the polls. Voter turnout hit a record 80% that year.

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