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Substitute House Bill No. 6533

Public Act No. 03-227

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PILOT PROGRAM FOR REFORMING THE ABSENTEE BALLOT PROCESS TO PREVENT FRAUD AND ABUSE.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) As used in this section:

(1) "Commission" means the State Elections Enforcement Commission; and

(2) "Designee" means (A) a person who is caring for an absentee ballot applicant because of the applicant's illness or physical disability, including but not limited to, a licensed physician or a registered or practical nurse, or (B) a member of any such applicant's family, who is designated by an absentee ballot applicant and who consents to such designation.

(b) Notwithstanding any provision of title 9 of the general statutes, the State Elections Enforcement Commission shall establish a pilot program for absentee voting at the municipal elections and primaries held in three municipalities in 2003. The commission shall notify municipalities of the opportunity to participate in the pilot program and shall select three municipalities to participate, provided the legislative body of each such municipality or, in the case of a municipality in which the legislative body is a town meeting, the board of selectmen, consents to such participation. In making such selections, the commission shall rank all municipalities from highest population to lowest population, and select one municipality in the highest third of such ranking, one municipality in the middle third of such ranking, and one municipality in the lowest third of such ranking.

(c) The provisions of chapter 145 of the general statutes shall apply in each municipality participating in the pilot program, except that:

(1) Only municipal clerks, registrars of voters and absentee ballot coordinators appointed by registrars of voters may issue absentee ballot applications;

(2) Such officials may issue absentee ballot applications only to persons who (A) request such applications for themselves, (B) have been identified by candidates or political parties as potential absentee voters, or (C) are designees;

(3) For a municipal election, each registrar of voters shall appoint at least one absentee ballot coordinator for each two hundred persons who voted by absentee ballot in the most recent municipal election. For a municipal primary, each registrar of voters shall appoint at least one absentee ballot coordinator for each two hundred persons who voted by absentee ballot in the most recent municipal primary. A registrar of voter's appointment of an absentee ballot coordinator shall not be effective until the registrar files the appointment with the municipal clerk;

(4) Absentee ballot coordinators serving in a municipality shall be residents of such municipality (A) who apply for such positions, or (B) whose names are submitted by candidates or slates of candidates at the election or primary or by political parties. Absentee ballot coordinators may not be municipal employees or members of a town committee or be employed by, or volunteer for, any campaign or political party;

(5) Absentee ballot coordinators may be compensated by the municipalities appointing the coordinators and shall receive training in absentee voting procedures by the appointing registrar or registrars of voters and be sworn to the faithful performance of their duties as election officials, in accordance with the provisions of section 9-231 of the general statutes;

(6) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B) of this subdivision, only absentee ballot coordinators may be present and provide assistance to an applicant in completing an absentee ballot application outside of the office of a registrar of voters or a municipal clerk. In the case of a municipal election, two absentee ballot coordinators of different political parties, and in the case of a primary, two absentee ballot coordinators representing competing slates or candidates in the primary, shall jointly provide such assistance to an applicant residing in the municipality who requests it. Each coordinator who provides such assistance shall sign the application in the space provided. One or both of such coordinators shall deliver the completed application to the municipal clerk not later than two business days after the date of completion of the application. This section shall not apply to supervised voting at institutions under section 9-159q or 9-159r of the general statutes; and

(B) A designee of an ill or physically disabled applicant may also be present and provide assistance to an applicant in completing an absentee ballot application. The persons listed in subsection (a) of section 9-140b of the general statutes may also assist in the return of absentee ballot applications;

(7) Each absentee ballot coordinator shall account to the municipal clerk for blank absentee ballot applications issued by the coordinator;

(8) When a municipal clerk or a registrar of voters provides assistance to an absentee ballot applicant in the office or the clerk or registrar, such official shall also sign the application; and

(9) The list of absentee ballot applicants who have executed applications shall remain confidential until the third business day before an election or primary.

(d) The State Elections Enforcement Commission shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this section to the same extent as the commission has the power to enforce provisions of election statutes under section 9-7b of the general statutes.

(e) After the municipal elections and primaries held in 2003, the State Elections Enforcement Commission shall survey election officials and participants in the three municipalities participating in the pilot program for absentee voting. Not later than January 15, 2004, the commission shall submit a report on its findings and recommendations concerning the pilot program to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to elections.

Approved July 9, 2003