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Lamont signs early voting bill as CT advocates and officials say rollout is underfunded

WEST HARTFORD, CT - OCTOBER 28, 2020: West Hartford Town Hall ballot box on October 28, 2020 in West Hartford, Connecticut. (Joe Amon/Connecticut Public)
Greg Miller
/
CT Public
Connecticut has become the 47th state to implement in-person early voting.

Voting rights advocates and the state’s top election official are raising concerns that Connecticut’s new early voting law is not adequately funded in the $51 billion, two-year state budget.

The bill, signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont, requires each municipality to stand up at least one early polling location for 14 days of voting before general elections, and up to seven days for certain primaries.

“I’ve said from the beginning of this process that the state shouldn’t pass early voting if we weren’t willing to pay for it, and that is, unfortunately, exactly the path the legislature has chosen,” Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said in a statement. “This budget only funds roughly half of the bare minimum that municipalities will need to successfully implement early voting.”

The Make It Count Coalition, a group of voting advocacy organizations including the Connecticut chapters of AARP, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters, also said the roughly $4.4 million for early voting in the budget signed into law last week was insufficient.

“This funding falls drastically short of what is necessary,” the coalition said in a statement. “While this legislation shows that lawmakers are interested in taking a step towards expanding ballot box access, by allocating only $4.4 million, lawmakers are neglecting the needs of urban, Black, Brown, people with disabilities, and elderly voters and effectively, hindering their ability to exercise their fundamental right to vote conveniently, contrary to the intention of the legislation.”

At a signing ceremony at the state Capitol in Hartford on Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged that towns and cities may at least initially need to pony up to meet the full costs of early voting sites.

“We are partners with our municipalities. You know, they do have [an] unprecedented amount of aid there,” Lamont said.

It echoed remarks the governor made at a budget press conference on Wednesday.

“Municipalities are saying, ‘We need more to do [early voting],’” Lamont said then. “I’d say two things: You have hundreds of millions more in municipal aid. Maybe you could step up and do a little bit of it yourself. And, secondly, we’ll revisit that when the next election comes up in the next cycle. So, if we need to do more, we will do more, alongside our municipalities.”

With the adoption of in-person early voting, Connecticut became the 47th state to implement the practice.

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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