Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HJ-95

Title:

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

Vote Date:

3/17/2017

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/6/2017

File No.:

464

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Government Administration and Elections Committee on behalf of Secretary of State, Denise Merrill

CO-SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep. Gregory Haddad, 54th Dist.

Rep. Matthew Lesser, 100th Dist.

Rep. Michael Winkler, 56th Dist.

Rep. Josh Elliott, 88th Dist.

Rep. Robyn A. Porter, 94th Dist.

Rep. Susan M. Johnson, 49th Dist.

Rep. Linda A. Orange, 48th Dist.

Rep. Henry J. Genga, 10th Dist.

Rep. Russell A. Morin, 28th Dist.

Rep. Roland J. Lemar, 96th Dist.

Rep. James M. Albis, 99th Dist.

Sen. Steve Cassano, 4th Dist.

Rep. David A. Baram, 15th Dist.

Rep. William Tong, 147th Dist.

Rep. Kelly J.S. Luxenberg, 12th Dist.

Rep. Michael D'Agostino, 91st Dist.

Rep. Mike Demicco, 21st Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

The reason for this resolution is an amendment to the State constitution permitting all eligible voters who are unable to appear at any polling place because of illness, physical disability or because of the beliefs of their religion, the choice to vote early for any election at the polls, no more than five days prior to any election.

The resolution additionally lifts the constitutional deadlines by which the lists of results must be delivered to the town clerks offices.

**Proposed Substitute Language: The new language adds “voting in person shall not occur more than five days prior to such day of election.”

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State:

The Secretary of the State testified in favor of this resolution for the flexibility for voters and the relief of the intense pressure by reducing long lines at the polls on Election Day.

Cheryl A. Sharp, Deputy Director of the (CHRO) Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities:

CHRO is in support of this resolution due to the fact that this resolution would remove barriers that have existed throughout our history disenfranchising minority citizens to vote. They feel the right to vote is the most important right under the constitution. Citizens of lower income, for example, healthcare, housing wages, etc. silences their right to vote because of the burdens they bare.

By allowing the use of absentee ballots it can still participate in democracy.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Mark H. Bernacki, Chair, New Britain Connecticut Town Clerks Association, Inc.:

In the opinion of the Connecticut town Clerks Association, they support early voting. It is different from absentee voting in that voters may visit an election official's office or other voting locations and cast a vote in person without offering an excuse for not being able to vote on Election Day. Early Voting is generally conducted in person on the same voting equipment used in the regular election as opposed to absentee voting, which is conducted on mail-in paper ballots.

Jennifer Tolentino, Director of Policy and Civic Tech, Rock the Vote:

Rock the Vote is in support of any kind of resolution that supports and expands the absentee and early vote in Connecticut. The current requirements are restricting and result in low access to the ballot box.

Carol Young-Kleinfeld, Registrar of Voters, Town of Wilton:

The registrar of Wilton is in favor of any kind of early voting because of being in a town with many NYC commuters Connecticut should make it easier not harder for people to participate.

Juan Hernandez, Vice President, 32BJ SEIU:

SEIU is in favor early voting. His union branch represents 4,500 men and women eager and active citizens in Connecticut, all speaking 28 different languages and come from 64 different countries. Their members are the backbone of service industry, such as schools, security officers and window cleaners to name a few who hold erratic hours which make getting to the polls tricky. By supporting this resolution, it will benefit this group enormously.

Yvonne Senturia, Election Law Specialist, LWV:

The League of Women Voters of Connecticut supports any kind of privileges available to all electors in any form for any reason.

Erin Badillo, Action Together Connecticut, Northern Fairfield County:

She is a working mother of two small children and getting to the polls is an ordeal. Having early voting, especially weekend voting, would make the process much more accessible and convenient.

Stacey Zimmerman, SEIU CT State Council:

SEIU is in favor of no excuse absentee ballot voting. It increases the enfranchisement of Connecticut citizens by multiplying the ability of people to vote via absentee ballot.

Katherine Cohen, Executive Director, ConnPIRG:

Permitting early and regional voting would open the doors to making it easier for people who would otherwise struggle to access the polls on Election Day, cast their vote.

ConnPIRG works to increase voter participation with nonpartisan.

Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common Cause in Connecticut:

The proposal addresses the importance of allowing eligible voters to cast their vote regardless of whether they are able to appear at the polls on Election Day. She feels the way the amendment is written now; the language does not take in consideration people who are caregivers, commuters, and people with multiple jobs even elderly people who need transportation to the polls on Election Day. These circumstances brought Common Cause and other sate partners to campaign in 2014 to amend the constitution. The measure failed and was voted down by a margin of 48% for and 52% against because of the way the language was written on the ballot. It was very confusing.

Aaron Goode, New Haven Votes Coalition:

Thirty-four states have early voting. Voters in Connecticut, especially in New Haven are against three hour waiting times at some polls on Election Day. Voters in New Haven would like the convenience of early voting options.

The committee also received 58 emails from the public that were in support of early voting for qualified voters so it would make it easier and accessible to vote in any election. This would also show great strides in moving forward.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Luther Weeks, CT Voters Count:

Luther Weeks is not in favor of this resolution because it would decrease turnout, disenfranchise voters, and increase risks. He feels the voters should be provided with a clear intent for the forms of early voting authorized by the General Assembly. The ballots should be approved and explained to the voters before any election.

Contrary to a touted benefit – early voting DECREASES turnout – An academic report concluded that early voting, including mail-in voting, decreases turnout by 3%. An earlier report showed a reduction of 2.6% to 2.9%.

Mr. Weeks also stated it disenfranchises voters, not providing the opportunity to revote when they mistakenly over vote.

In 2012, the Secretary of the State organized an Elections Performance Task Force. She invited Doug Chapin, Director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, to address the task force. He said:

“You can have little to no impact on your turn-out bottom line with election laws. Turnout tends to be driven by what's on the ballot rather than when, where, and how it is available.

For more details, please refer to my attached previous testimony and other supporting materials.”

Reported by: Carolyn Gaetano

Date: March 31, 2017