Topic:
BALLOTS; CAMPAIGNS - PUBLIC FINANCING; CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS; LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS; PRIMARIES; VOTING;
Location:
CAMPAIGNS - FINANCE; CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS;

OLR Research Report


July 17, 2008

 

2008-R-0415

(Revised)

2008 BALLOT QUESTIONS AND PUBLIC FINANCING'S AFFECT ON ELECTORAL COMPETITION

By: Kristin Sullivan, Associate Analyst

You want the text and background for the 2008 general election ballot questions. You also asked for the Citizens' Elections Program's affect on electoral competition, comparing 2006 to 2008, as measured by the percentage of legislative races that (1) are uncontested or (2) have only one major party candidate running.

SUMMARY

Two questions will appear on the 2008 general election ballot. One will ask voters to decide whether there should be a constitutional convention and the other will ask them to determine whether the constitution should be amended to allow eligible 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. By law, the Office of Legislative Research must prepare, and the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee must approve, any proposed amendment together with its explanatory text. The secretary of the state must print and transmit the proposed amendment and explanatory text to each town clerk in time for public distribution, including absentee ballot printing (CGS 2-30a). We have discussed this process with staff in the secretary's office who indicated that the GAE Committee should make its approval by September 1 and plans are underway to accomplish this.

An Act Concerning Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform for Statewide Constitutional and General Assembly Offices, established, among other things, the Citizens' Election Program as a voluntary system of public campaign financing (PA 05-5, October 25 Special Session). The 2008 election cycle is the first when legislative candidates can participate in the program; 2010 will be the first for statewide candidates.

One of the generally-agreed upon goals of public campaign financing programs is to increase electoral competition. To determine whether the Citizens' Election Program has yet affected competition, this report uses the 2006 and 2008 legislative races to examine changes in the percentage of races where only one major party candidate runs (i.e., Democrat or Republican). Generally, we found a slight decrease from 2006 to 2008. The percentage of districts with only one major party candidate running declined from 22% to 17% among Senate races and from 41% to 32% among House races.

While we provide the number of 2006 uncontested races (races with one candidate), we could not examine changes in the percentage of uncontested races between the two election cycles since minor and petitioning party candidates have not yet been certified for 2008. Certain districts that are presently uncontested may in fact become contested.

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Two questions will appear on the 2008 general election ballot. The first, concerning a constitutional convention, must be submitted to electors at the general election in the even-numbered year after the expiration of 20 years from the last time (1) the question was submitted to all electors or (2) such a convention occurred (Ct. Const. Art. XIII, 2).

The second question is a proposed constitutional amendment. During the 2008 legislative session, more than three-fourths of the total membership of the Senate and House of Representatives approved sHJ 21, Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the State Constitution to Allow 17-Year-Old Persons Who Will Be 18 Years of Age at the Next Regular Election to Vote in Primaries Related to Such Election. Thus, the question must be submitted to electors in November (Ct. Const. Art. XII).

First Question: Constitutional Convention

The question as it will appear on the ballot is, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the constitution of the state?”

Explanatory Text. The GAE Committee has not yet approved explanatory text. However, following is the explanatory text from 1986, the last time this question appeared on the ballot, and the 2008 text will likely be substantially similar:

This question asks voters to choose whether they are in favor of holding a convention to amend or revise the constitution. If voters choose to have a convention, the General Assembly must enact a law prescribing the way convention delegates will be selected and the dates the convention will begin and end. It would have to begin by November 4, 1987. If the convention proposed any changes, voters would vote on them within two months. The Connecticut Constitution requires that voters be asked this question every 20 years.

If a majority of voters approve a convention this November, it would have to begin by November 4, 2009.

Second Question: 17-Year-Olds Voting in Primaries

The question as it will appear on the ballot is, “Shall the constitution of the state be amended to permit any person who will have attained the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election to vote in the primary for such regular election?”

Text of the Proposed Amendment (sHJ 21, 2008). The proposed amendment's text follows. In it, new material is italicized. If a majority of those voting approve, it will become part of the state constitution.

Article fourteenth of the amendments to the constitution is amended to read as follows:

Any citizen who will have attained the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election may apply for admission as an elector at such times and in such manner as may be prescribed by law, and, if qualified, shall become an elector on the day of his or her eighteenth birthday. Any citizen who has not yet attained the age of eighteen years but who will have attained the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election, who is otherwise qualified to be an elector and who has applied for admission as an elector in such manner as may be prescribed by law, may vote in any primary election, in such manner as may be prescribed by law, held for such regular election.

Background on sHJ 21. This amendment would allow 17-year-old citizens who will turn 18 on or before the day of a regular election to vote in its primary. Under the amendment, such an individual must apply and otherwise qualify for admission as an elector. “Regular election” means any municipal or state election. State elections include candidates for federal office. (Attached is the public act summary for sHJ 21.)

On February 29, 2008, the GAE Committee held a public hearing on sHJ 21. Several people testified in favor of the resolution, including the secretary of the state and students and administrators from Newtown, Notre Dame, Stonington, and Valley Regional High Schools. According to their testimony, Connecticut has one of the lowest youth voter turnout levels and passing the resolution would help bolster involvement by this demographic. They also indicated that 18 other states allow 17-year-olds to register and vote in primaries or caucuses if they will be 18 by the next general election. There was no opposition. The committee favorably reported the resolution, by a vote of 11 to 1, on March 10, 2008.

Rep. Spallone introduced the resolution in the House for the first time on April 9. After some debate, the chamber passed temporarily. Rep. Spallone introduced the resolution again on April 22, when the House eventually passed it by a vote of 135 to 12, meeting the three-fourths threshold necessary for the question to appear on the 2008 ballot.

During the April 9 debate, Rep. Spallone indicated that, among young people, passing the resolution would:

1. increase and develop an interest in politics and government,

2. foster political and policy discussions, and

3. encourage voter registration.

He also noted that 17-year-olds can pre-enlist in the military. The resolution would enable them to help choose from among the general election candidates who would make policy decisions regarding deployment.

During the same debate, Rep. Cafero asked whether the resolution would allow 17-year-olds to vote in referenda or specials elections. Rep. Spallone indicated they would not. Rep. Cafero voiced concern about election workers' ability to prevent them from doing so without a stricter voter identification law.

During the April 22 debate, Rep. Cafero offered an amendment (House Amendment “B”) that would have amended the constitution to allow the General Assembly to extend the use of absentee ballots to anyone, not just those who are unable to appear at a polling place for specified reasons. After some debate, the motion failed by a vote of 65 to 82.

Sen. Slossberg introduced the resolution in the Senate on May 1. She suggested that passing the resolution would increase the civic engagement and tendency toward lifelong voting among young people. She also indicated that studies show that allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries increases general election voter turnout among young people, as well as their parents.

Sen. Debicella offered Senate Amendment “A,” which proposed amending the constitution to allow for direct initiative and direct referendum by voters. After some debate, the Senate voted 9 to 26 against the amendment and 36 to 0 in favor of the resolution, meeting the three-fourths threshold. Nobody rose in opposition to the resolution, though Sen. Debicella questioned whether 17-years-old is the appropriate age for voting in a primary.

COMPETITION IN LEGISLATIVE RACES: 2006 AND 2008

Table 1 compares legislative races in 2006 (the election cycle immediately preceding public financing) to those in 2008 (the first cycle under which candidates can accept public funds). For 2006, the table shows (1) uncontested races and (2) the number of races where only one major party candidate ran. For 2008, it focuses exclusively on races where only one major party candidate will run. This is because it is not yet possible to determine whether certain races will be uncontested since the deadline for minor parties to nominate and certify candidates is September 3 and the deadline for petitioning candidates to file petitions with the town clerk or the secretary of the state, depending on the office, is 4:00 p.m. August 6 (CGS 9-452 and 9-453i).

Between 2006 and 2008, the number of races with only one major party candidate running decreased by two (5%) among Senate races and 13 (9%) among House races. These figures appear to show slight increases in electoral competition. However, it generally takes more than one election cycle for the effects of a new public finance program to occur, as a General Accounting Office (GAO) report, Early Experiences of Two States That Offer Full Public Financing for Political Candidates, indicates. The GAO report concludes:

In sum, with only two elections from which to observe legislative races and only one election from which to observe most statewide races, it is too early to draw causal linkages to changes, if any, that resulted from the public financing programs in the two states.

We obtained the data for Table 1 from the 2006 statement of vote and the list of candidates for the November 4, 2008 general election (as of July 15, 2008), which the secretary of the state compiles.

Table 1: Competition in 2006 and 2008 Legislative Races

Chamber

2006

2008

Total Races

Uncontested Races

(%)

Races with Only One Major Party Candidate in Contest

(%) a

Total Races

Uncontested Races

(%)

Races with Only One Major Party Candidate in Contest

(%) b

Senate Races

36

6

(17%)

8

(22%)

36

N/A

6

(17%)

House Races

151

40

(26%)

62

(41%)

151

N/A

49

(32%)

N/A means data is not yet available

a Figure includes uncontested races

b Figure does not include districts in which a vacancy currently exits

Vacancies

Presently, the 6th Senate district and the 21st, 44th, 48th, 142nd and 146th House districts have vacancies. This means that the party whose candidate withdrew from the race may nominate a replacement to fill the vacancy. Thus, these races may or may not remain uncontested or include only one major party candidate.

With one exception, vacancy nominations must be certified with the secretary of the state by the 21st day before the election (CGS 9-460). If a candidate dies within 24 days and 24 hours before the election, the party may fill the vacancy at that time. (If a candidate dies within 24 hours of an election, his or her name remains on the ballot. If he or she wins, a vacancy exists in the office and the party fills it in the manner prescribed by law.)

HYPERLINK:

United States General Accounting Office, Early Experiences of Two States That Offer Full Public Financing for Political Candidates, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03453.pdf, last visited July 17, 2008.

ATTACHMENT 1

sHJ 21

Government Administration and Elections Committee

RESOLUTION PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ALLOW SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD PERSONS WHO WILL BE EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE AT THE NEXT REGULAR ELECTION TO VOTE IN PRIMARIES RELATED TO SUCH ELECTION

SUMMARY: This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment allowing 17-year-old citizens who will turn 18 on or before the day of a regular election to vote in its primary. Under the resolution, such an individual must apply and otherwise qualify for admission as an elector. He or she may then vote in the primary held to determine nominees for the regular election. Upon turning 18, the individual's electoral rights attach. By law, a “regular election” means any municipal or state election. State elections include candidates for federal office.

The ballot designation to be used when the amendment is presented at the general election is: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit any person who will have attained the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election to vote in the primary for such regular election?”

EFFECTIVE DATE: The resolution will be placed on the 2008 general election ballot. If a majority of those voting in the general election approves the amendment, it becomes part of the state constitution.

KS:ts