Early Voting Makes Sense


TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

The whole point of government of the people, by the people, for the people is that the people actually do have a chance to participate in our institutions. This means advocating, protesting, lobbying, organizing, and running for office, sure, but at a very basic level, it is about being able to vote.

For decades, participating in Connecticut elections has been a pretty rigid affair. We had one day to vote, the Tuesday designated as election or primary day, and a set of exceedingly restrictive absentee voting rules. Our state, then, was doing something akin to the voter suppression that liberals and progressives decry when it happens in the South, but here at home. Having elections on a regular workday meant that many could not go to the polls unless they took some time off from their jobs. Limiting poll times to just one Tuesday left many voters with busy schedules, childcare responsibilities, or just many competing responsibilities to skip elections. The byzantine, confusing vote-by-mail process both left many too confused to even bother. It was a clunky, outdated system, well-suited for late 19th century farmers, but not quite for our modern, busy days.

Many years of advocacy and a constitutional amendment later, Connecticut finally made some changes to our venerable election laws. This week, we will finally get the chance to put them to work.

Next Tuesday, April 2nd, Connecticut will hold its Presidential Preference Primary. Both registered Republican and Democratic voters can cast their ballot on which candidate should represent their party in the November General Election. And we finally have the opportunity to vote before Election Day. Early voting stations will open for early voting from 10 am to 6 pm on March 26, 27, 28, and 30. Due to the state holidays on Good Friday and Easter, there will be no voting on Friday or Sunday. Most towns will have fewer polling locations for early voting; you can find your early voting location on your municipality’s website, at MyVote.ct.gov, or by calling 860-509-6200.

The presidential primaries are somewhat of a trial run, but early voting is here to stay. The non-presidential primary elections (for state and federal offices) will take place on August 13; early voting will be available from August 5 to August 11. The general election on November 5 will be preceded by an even longer early voting window from October 21 to November 3. Our political system is quite demanding in the sense that we are called to cast ballots quite often; now we can do that early. We have no excuse to skip our duty as citizens and not make our voice heard, every step of the way.

Despite the good news, we are not quite there yet regarding our electoral system truly being open for all. Absentee voting rules are still too confusing, restrictive, and unwieldy to be practical, especially compared to other states that have voting by mail almost as their default option. All Colorado, Utah, Washington, or California voters just get their ballot at their home ahead of the election and can choose to either mail it back or go to the polls, at their convenience. It is a safe and reliable system that makes sure everyone can vote if they wish to do so.

We are not there yet, and enabling a system like this would require another constitutional amendment in our state. We will have a chance to vote on it (early, even) in this November’s election.