Ballot Question 1 on Early Voting Too Vague to Support

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To the Editor:

The issue of early voting has been debated in Connecticut for years. On November 8th , citizens will be asked to approve a vaguely-worded proposal that would amend our Constitution and grant the state legislature carte blanche to set the ground rules for early voting in elections.

I’m open to the idea of early in-person voting. Forty-six states have some form of it, and many do it well. In fact, given a choice between early in-person voting, with a verifiable chain of ballot custody from voter to town clerk, or Connecticut’s current absentee laws, which have played havoc in elections in Bridgeport, Stamford, and Hartford, I’ll the take the former.

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Proponents say early voting will increase participation. Perhaps.

Connecticut, ranked 16th among the 50 states in voter turnout in the 2020 elections; 71 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. New Hampshire, whose laws are similar to ours, saw 76 percent of eligible voters participate in the 2020 elections. Meanwhile, California and North Dakota, which have some of the least restrictive voting laws in the country, managed to draw only 68 percent and 64 percent of eligible voters respectively in 2020. It appears early access to polls is not a significant driver of voter turnout.

Nevertheless, we should consider easing accessibility. We could make Election Day a holiday. Besides making voting more convenient, a holiday just might restore to the process the solemnity it merits. Maybe we begin voting the weekend prior the first Tuesday in November. Whatever tack taken needs to achieve four main objectives: allow the greatest opportunity for voting access; not strap the 169 municipalities that must pay for and manage the process; create a limited window to protect against last minute surprises like that which occurred in Pennsylvania U.S. Senate debate Oct. 25; and, most important, protect the integrity of each vote cast.

It is the latter objective that will compel me to vote no on Question 1. I do not trust our elected leaders.

The legislature, working in conjunction with the past two administrations, has demonstrated repeatedly that its loyalty lies with lobbyists, public and private union bosses, state contractors, university administrators, party insiders, entrenched bureaucrats, family members — everyone but the citizens to whom they owe their allegiance.

This is the legislature that ceded its Constitutional responsibilities to the governor by failing to check his emergency powers during COVID. This is the legislature that pretty much lets state unions write their own labor contracts and extensions, costing the rest of us billions of dollars. This is the legislature that refuses year after year to meet its obligation to fully fund state pension funds. This is the legislature that, at the end of every session, passes eleventh-hour implementer bills infested with “rats,” furtive provisions that fail to win passage through transparent legislative channels.

Given our current legislature, abetted by a highly partisan chief executive and cabinet, who knows what we’ll wind up with. Six months of voting? Sure, why not? Heck, make it 24/7/365. Ranked choice voting is a new pet scheme. Would lawmakers find a way to slip that one in under the guise of ease and access?

Connecticut’s voting system is “broken,” according to registrars. These part-time public servants deal with faulty, antiquated equipment and software and inconstant regulations on everything from eligible signatures to how absentee ballots must be returned to be deemed valid. With most state employees still working remotely, Secretary of the State staff have been known to conduct registrar training sessions from their beds in their pajamas.

“Perhaps we need to get our house in order before we add something else to a very broken system,” said New London County registrar. Discontent among registrars isn’t a secret, and, yet the legislature has done nothing to force the Secretary of the State’s office to fix the myriad problems plaguing the system.

Year after year, the legislature shirks its responsibility to protect the rights of the 3.3 million citizens of the state. Now, they want us to put them in charge of writing rules for a whole new method of voting? Hartford, show me you’re committed to safeguarding my most fundamental right as a citizen. Then we’ll talk about early voting.

Faith Ham
Cheshire, CT