Today, the House of Representatives took up a critical bill that will help protect the right to vote for all residents in our state in the General Election. I am pleased to announce that this measure passed largely on a bipartisan basis with 144 voting in favor and two against.
Earlier this year, Governor Ned Lamont issued an Executive Order which provided every voter with the option to vote by mail. Unfortunately, the order only applied to the state’s primary elections on Aug 11th, 2020. With the dangers of the current pandemic looming over our nation, it is important to protect the right to vote for the November general election, especially for those most vulnerable. Without this option, we might be forcing possibly immuno-compromised voters to choose between their health and their constitutional right. According to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, most Americans agree, as approximately 75% of respondents supported mail-in voting during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
While COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish amongst its victims along party lines, mail-in voting or “No-Excuse” absentee ballots has become a political issue. Ignoring the sentiment of the majority of Americans, Republican officials on the federal level vehemently deny the benefits of mail-in voting. Two Connecticut Republican lawmakers, Rep. Jason Perillo and Senator Eric Berthel, were members of a group suing to block Connecticut’s voting plan, citing the common partisan rhetoric that allowing mail-in voting increases the likelihood of voter fraud.*
The facts say otherwise: Of the five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) that have held mail-only elections, the average voting fraud per capita is almost halved in comparison to states who do not allow mail-in voting, or states like Connecticut who require an excuse for absentee balloting.
I believe Connecticut should learn from the other states’ experience, and implement No-Excuse absentee ballots for all of our elections. No-Excuse permits any registered voter to submit an absentee ballot application and receive one without having to explain why. This may seem radical to some, but Connecticut is currently 1 of only 17 states that do not permit this option, while 27 others do. This bill does not expand absentee voting permanently, but does so for the upcoming general election.
Outside of the pandemic setting, Connecticut authorizes the use of an absentee ballot for one of six reasons: Active service in the Armed Forces, absence from town during all of the hours of voting, illness, religious beliefs, duties as an election official, and/or physical disability.
By allowing No-Excuse ballots, we can also increase voter turnout exponentially and ensure a thriving democracy where the voices of the people are heard. A 2013 study of voters in Washington by Yale and the University of California, San Diego, found that voting by mail increased turnout by two to four percentage points, with low-participating voters more likely to be influenced than others. As established before, this higher voter turnout doesn’t necessarily translate into voter fraud.
The world after the Coronavirus Pandemic will never be the same as the world before, and it shouldn’t be. Connecticut has always been a leader in guaranteeing individual rights, after all, we are known as “the Constitution State.” Let’s show leadership in the national conversation regarding mail-in voting and allow No-Excuse ballots right here at home.