Terrie Wood: Too Many Variables Left to the Legislature by Early Voting Amendment

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To the Editor:

With Election Day fast approaching, this is a good time to highlight that in addition to a general election, all voters will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow for Early Voting in Connecticut.

Our basic voting laws are embedded in our state Constitution. To make any changes we must vote on a constitutional amendment. The question on the ballot is – – shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for Early Voting?  

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First, it’s important to understand the difference between the proposed Early Voting initiative and our current Absentee Ballot laws.

Currently, all citizens have the right to vote thirty-one days ahead of Election Day by the Absentee Ballot process. The six reasons one may vote by Absentee Ballot are contained in our state constitution. This list covers virtually any reason.

  • Military service

  • Religion forbids on the particular day of voting

  • Working in polling location

  • A physical disability

  • Out of town

  • Sickness

This may feel weedy… it’s important to understand these details.

The Absentee Voting process is accomplished two ways. One, go in person to the town clerk’s office and request a ballot application. After filling out the ballot application the town clerk will give the voter the absentee ballot to fill out and return in a secure double envelope that will be stored in the clerk’s office in a locked box and counted on Election Day. This can be done in a matter of minutes at one’s convenience during the hours town hall is open.

Two, you may vote by absentee ballot by downloading a ballot application from the town or Secretary of the State’s website and sending it to your town clerk. The town clerk, verifies voter registration, then sends the ballot to the voter. Voter returns ballot by USPS or by dropping in ballot box outside town hall.  One must allow about two weeks or more for this process by mail.

What is the proposed Early Voting initiative and how will it work?

Early Voting is voting in person a set number of days/weeks ahead of the election by the same process used on Election Day. The voter fills out the ballot and feeds it into a voting machine / tabulator  to be read and recorded. Election officials will be on duty to monitor.

The stated purpose of Early Voting is to encourage more people to vote. A laudable goal. However, as we have seen with several other election programs and policies voted in by the Democratic majority in Hartford over the last few years, statistics show that these efforts have not significantly encouraged more citizens to vote. 

For example, Election Day Registration and the ability to register to vote at the DMV have been implemented both with mixed results. In 2020, the Secretary of the State sent out close to 2,000,000+  mass ballot applications to every registered voter in the state. Several hundred thousand of these applications were either returned to the secretary’s office as undeliverable or residences where the addressee had died or moved years before.

All these programs despite having good intentions have had their challenges and unintended consequences and they raise legitimate concerns how this newest initiative for Early Voting will be implemented and managed.

These constant changes and inconsistency make our election system more challenging than it needs to be. That’s why many Town Clerks and Registrar of Voters oppose the Early Voting measure at this time. Too many variables will be left to the legislature to decide. Further, it’s an unfunded mandate on municipalities and one more election system for a town to coordinate and manage in an already chaotic time of the year.

Why should you care? 

Until there is more demonstrated clarity and consistency and good decisions made – – does adding one more election system make sense? Especially since we can vote early via the absentee ballot process.

Protecting our democracy is up to all of us. Voting for all citizens must be easy to access, clear, consistent and simple to understand. It must also protect the integrity of the vote and our election system. It’s important to find the balance between accessible voting and ensuring election integrity.

Please let me know your thoughts and questions – – terrie.wood@cga.ct.gov


Wood is State Representative of the 141st district which includes Norwalk and Darien