OLR Bill Analysis

sHJ 95

RESOLUTION PROPOSING A STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PERMIT EARLY AND REGIONAL VOTING.

SUMMARY

This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to (1) eliminate the requirement that electors gather on election day to vote for state officers and state legislators, (2) authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for voting starting five days before an election, (3) remove the constitution's current restrictions on absentee voting.

The resolution also allows the General Assembly to provide by law for voting, starting five days before election day, in polling places serving more than one political subdivision. It makes a conforming change by eliminating a requirement that a person be a bona fide resident of the town in which he or she seeks to be admitted as an elector.

Finally, the resolution lifts the constitutional deadlines by which the lists of results (i.e., moderator returns) for state officers and state legislators must be delivered to town clerks and the secretary of the state (within three and 10 days after an election, respectively). State statutes set earlier deadlines by which they must submit these returns (see BACKGROUND).

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 electors to vote prior to the day of an election and at polling places that serve multiple political subdivisions of the state?”

EFFECTIVE DATE: If the resolution passes by at least three-fourths of the membership of each house of the General Assembly, it will be placed on the 2018 general election ballot. If it passes by a majority of the membership of each house but less than three-fourths, it will be referred to the 2019 session of the legislature. If it passes in that session by a majority of each house, it will appear on the 2020 general election ballot. If a majority of those voting in the general election approves the amendment, it will become part of the state constitution.

CURRENT CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

The state constitution currently sets the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in specified years as the day of election for legislative and statewide offices (Article III, 8 and Article IV, 1). With one exception, it requires electors to gather at a meeting on this day to elect state legislators and state officers (Article III, 9 and Article IV, 4).

The exception authorizes the General Assembly to pass a law allowing electors to cast their votes by absentee ballot if they will be out of town, they are sick or have a physical disability, or the tenets of their religion prohibit secular activity on election day (Article VI, 7). The General Assembly exercised this authority and passed laws codified at CGS 9-135.

If passed, the resolution would amend the constitution to remove these provisions.

BACKGROUND

Moderator Returns

The statutes require moderators to do the following:

1. prepare a preliminary list of results and electronically transmit it to the secretary of the state by midnight on election day,

2. electronically transmit a “duplicate list of the votes” to the secretary no later than 48 hours after the polls close,

3. deliver a sealed copy of the duplicate list to the secretary no later than the third day after the election, and

4. provide a copy of the duplicate list to the town clerk (CGS 9-314).

Absentee Voting

State statutes permit qualified electors to vote by absentee ballot if:

1. they are absent from the municipality in which they reside during all hours of voting;

2. they are ill or have a physical disability;

3. the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity on the day of the primary, election, or referendum;

4. they are in active service in the U.S. Armed Forces; or

5. their duties as election or referendum officials outside of their voting district will keep them away during all hours of voting (CGS 9-135).

Related Constitutional Amendment and Bill

HJ 96, reported favorably by the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee, proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the General Assembly to provide by law for no-excuse absentee voting.

SB 897, reported favorably by the House GAE Committee, amends CGS 9-135 to allow electors to vote by absentee ballot if they are absent from the municipality in which they reside; the absence need not span all voting hours as under current law.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

9

Nay

8

(03/17/2017)