Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5024

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING VOTING RIGHTS.

Vote Date:

3/21/2012

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/2/2012

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep. Donovan, 84th Dist.

Rep. Sharkey, 88th Dist.

Sen. Williams, 29th Dist.

Sen. Looney, 11th Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill is intended to modernize the state's electoral system by expanding voter registration to the internet and by extending the registration deadline to Election Day. This legislation is intended to curtail unforeseen errors on Election Day that may keep voters who are in fact registered to vote from casting their ballots. In addition, this legislation is meant to boost voter turn out.

The substitute language (LCO 2610) adds “(B) an elector registered in a municipality who wishes to change his or her registration to another municipality pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (2) of subsection (e) of this act, and” to section 1.

It also adds “if the registrars of voters if the municipality in which the applicant is attempting to register are unable to immediately contact the registrars of voters in the other municipality, the registrars of voters shall permit such applicant to vote, but shall not count the ballot unless the registrars of voters are able to confirm hat the applicant did not vote in the other municipality” starting on line 60.

The substitute language also deleted section 8, and renumbered the following sections accordingly.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Dannel P. Malloy, Governor, Connecticut: Governor Malloy supports this bill, he believes this legislation will bring the State of Connecticut's electoral system into the 21st century. The Governor believes by making voter registration available online electors will find it easier and more efficient to register to vote. The governor believes this legislation will pave the way for greater voter confidence in the electoral system, in turn granting a greater voice for the citizens of Connecticut.

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State, Connecticut: The Secretary of the State testified in support of this bill. Ms. Merrill believes this bill will help create a more accurate and up-to-date voter list, convenience in the voter registration process, and pass savings along to the State of Connecticut.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Matthew Waggner, Registrar of Voters, Fairfield: Mr. Waggner testified in support of this bill. He believes this legislation will vastly improve electoral fairness in the state. In his testimony, Mr. Waggner noted that the majority of Election Day registration activity is caused by voters who are not registering for the first time, but rather from electors whose registration information needs to be corrected or updated. Mr. Waggner believes this legislation will make the proper changes to include those voters who may need a last minute update or fix to their voter status, something they might not have noticed prior to Election Day.

Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director, Connecticut Common Cause: Ms. Quickmire testified in support of this bill. She believes, due to the transient nature of portions of the State's population, that Election Day registration would provide many in the state ample opportunity to exercise their right to a ballot on Election Day.

Steven Carbó, Senior Program Director, Demos: Mr. Carbó testified in support of this bill. In his testimony he acknowledged the often mobile nature of American society and pointed to this transient behavior as a reason to implement Election Day registration. He believes this legislation will help fix unforeseen problems that may confront voters on Election Day, and encourage citizens who could not meet the voter registration deadline for whatever reason to cast their ballots.

Nicolas Y. Riley, Myrna Pérez, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: Mr. Riley and Ms. Pérez submitted testimony in favor of this bill. They believe online voter registration is a great tool to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the voter registration process. In addition, Mr. Riley and Ms. Pérez believe Election Day registration is a great safeguard against “unintentional disenfranchisement” that they claim would come about as a result of error in the process of registering someone to vote.

Carolyn Thornberry, Registrar of Voters, West Hartford: Ms. Thornberry testified in support of this legislation. She is concerned with declining voter turn out, and believes Election Day registration, and online voter registration, can greatly help alleviate the issue of lackluster voter participation and encourage younger voters to participate in the election process.

Susan Voris, Carole G. Mulready, League of Women Voters: Ms. Voris and Ms. Mulready testified on behalf of the League of Women Voters in support of this bill. They are in support of creating an online voter registration system, and implementing an Election Day voter registration procedure. In their testimony they noted that the LWV has been a long-time advocate for these reforms and that they believes this bill will boost voter turn out and help combat voter fraud.

Urania Petit, Registrar of Voters, Hartford: Ms. Petit testified in support of this legislation. She believes the legislation will help those who have difficulties exercising their right to vote, whether that issue be registration deadlines, complex procedures, and requiring citizens to appear at the Registrar of Voters' office. Ms. Petit believes voter education is a part of her job, and favors eliminating barriers that may inhibit electors from casting their ballots.

Paul Filson, Director, Service Employees International Union: Mr. Filson testified in support of this bill. In his testimony he shared the SEIU's frustrations with trying to engage their members to vote, stating “There is nothing more frustrating that finding a member or one of their family members at home on election-day without a current registration.” Mr. Filson believes this legislation would help electors cast their ballots by extending the registration deadline to the Election Day, and allowing for online registration.

Judith A. Beaudreau, Registrar of Voters, Vernon: Ms. Beaudreau testified in favor of this legislation, she believes that voter registration and not being familiar with out election laws causes citizens not to vote. She believes Election Day registration would help improve poor voter turn out.

Carole Young-Kleinfeld, Registrar of Voters, Wilton: Ms. Young-Kleinfeld testified in favor of this bill. She thinks it is time for the State to join the ranks of other states that already implement Election Day registration. Ms. Young-Kleinfeld believes this bill will help younger citizens and those who may have recently moved become involved in the electoral process. She also believes this legislation will be instrumental in addressing possible errors in the list of registered voters.

Pua Ford, Registrar of Voters, Bethany: Ms. Ford testified in support of this legislation. She believes there are legitimate reasons why electors neglect to register to vote, or even to vote altogether. During her testimony Ms. Ford said “People who have a load of everyday problems often move civic duties on the back burner.” She believes we cannot limit participation in the electoral process to those with very little chaos in their daily lives, and that Election Day registration is one way to fix that issue.

Linda A. Bayer, Hartford Votes: Ms. Bayer submitted testimony in favor of this bill, she believes this bill is of special significance to the City of Hartford because voters in the city often move and may be mistakenly removed from voter registration lists because of complications that may arise from questions regarding the status of their residence.

Benjamin D. Florsheim: Mr. Florsheim submitted testimony in support of this legislation. He believes Election Day registration and online voter registration are important reforms in maintaining the integrity of the electoral process, and may help reduce the costs associated with the electoral process. He believes this reform will help young voters, particularly students, recognize their right to vote and participate in the electoral process.

Antoinette Spinelli, Chair, Connecticut Town Clerks Association, Inc.: Ms. Spinelli testified in favor of this bill. In her testimony she noted that the responsibility of registering voter does not lie with the Town Clerks, and supports these reforms and their continued assertion that presidential ballots are to be issued and processed through the respective Office of the Town Clerks.

Andrew Rose: Mr. Rose testified in support of this bill. He believes registering to vote ahead of time can be onerous to those struggling to make ends meet, the elderly and those with poor health and that this bill will do well to make sure those aforementioned voters are not disenfranchised as a result.

Daria K. Hart, Democratic Registrar of Voters, New Hartford: Ms. Hart submitted testimony in favor of this legislation. She believes Election Day registration is “a natural extension of our job.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Peter Gostin, Registrar of Voters, New Britain: Mr. Gostin submitted testimony in opposition to this legislation. He believes Election Day registration would expose the electoral process to voter fraud and hamper the legitimacy of ballots cast in the state. In his testimony, Mr. Gostin claimed that this legislation would only increase the number of questionable ballots in any given primary of election. He also expressed concerns over the security of identity verification as it relates to voter registration, claiming that current voter identity verification laws are too lax and should be strengthened. Mr. Gostin's testimony concluded with the assertion that Election Day registration is in no way a definite path to increased voter turn out, and that other factors contribute more to voter turn out; such as a state being a “swing state.”

Melissa Russell, Executive Vice President, Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut: Ms. Russell submitted testimony in opposition to this bill. She believes this legislation will be too costly as it will require Registrars to hire additional poll workers, purchase and install additional computers. She also believes this legislation will be a logistical challenge to the town Registrars, who would be charged with the task of determining whether or not someone registering on Election Day has already voted in another district and whether or not they are eligible to vote. Additionally, Ms. Russell believes Election Day registration makes it difficult to asses whether someone is being truthful about their place of residence.

Luther Weeks, Executive Director,CTVotersCount: Mr. Weeks submitted testimony in opposition to this legislation. He believes Election Day registration will overcrowd polling places on Election Day further complicating the job of the Registrars. Mr. Weeks believes this bill will only create a chaotic atmosphere in “critical” and “high interest” elections in the future.

Greg Schuster, First Selectman, Colchester: Mr. Schuster submitted testimony in opposition to this bill. He believes, as First Selectman of Colchester, part of his job includes protecting the integrity of the election process. He believes Election Day registration will add an undue burden on towns that may already be stretched thin on Election Day, in terms of polling staff, places, and equipment. Mr. Schuster believes this legislation will increase the potential for voter fraud, and called this legislation “another unfunded mandate on municipalities.”

Fred DeCaro III, Registrar of Voters, Greenwich: Mr. DeCaro III submitted testimony in opposition to this bill. In his testimony he claimed that this legislation will only help to corrode voter confidence. He believes this bill will overburden already stressed Registrars, and that it insufficiently ensures against voter fraud.

Kachina Walsh-Weaver, Senior Legislative Associate, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities: Ms. Walsh-Weaver submitted testimony in opposition to the bill. She expressed concerns CCM has over the fiscal impact of implementing Election Day registration to local governments. In her testimony she urged the committee to be cautious in its implementation of the new Election Day registration system to be mindful of the fiscal impact on local governments.

Christopher Healy: Mr. Healy testified in opposition to this legislation. He believes the creation of an online voter data system is a useful tool to keep track of new voters and to check for elector inconsistencies. But, he believes Election Day registration to be “an answer to a problem that doesn't exist.” Mr. Healy feels that voting is a citizen's right and privilege, and believes it is not asking too much of the elector to register to vote ahead of election day. In his testimony, he pointed out that citizens in the state already have plenty of time and options to register to vote. He believes this bill will also create an undue burden on already strained town Registrar and Election Day staff resources. In addition, he believes the proper way to address low voter turn out is through education rather than implementing Election Day registration.

Aleta Looker, Registrar of Voters, Cheshire: Ms. Looker testified in opposition this bill. She believes Election Day registration to be a terrible idea. In her testimony Ms. Looker claimed that over the years voter registration laws have been relaxed repeatedly, and she feels that Election Day registration would do little to prevent people from procrastinating when it came time to register to vote, something she believes would further crowd the polling place on Election Day. She is also very concerned about the cost of implementing this bill, she pointed out that many local governments are facing very serious budgetary problems.

Reported by: Matt Carpenter

Date: April 5, 2012