After Years of Debate Connecticut Joins Other States in Permitting Early Voting

Connecticut has made history by introducing early, in-person voting for the first time, joining the majority of states across the nation that have long provided this option to voters ahead of elections.

Saturday signifies the last opportunity for early voting ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary, and turnout has been relatively low thus far.

Following the initial three days of voting (with Friday excluded due to the Good Friday holiday), a total of 13,476 voters have participated in-person out of the over 1.2 million registered Democrats and Republicans.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have both secured the necessary delegates to be deemed the presumptive nominees of their respective parties, hence the stakes are low.

Despite the modest turnout, state officials expressed satisfaction, highlighting the absence of significant issues with the new voting system.

“We asked voters to help us test the system and make their voices heard, and voters of Connecticut answered the call,” Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said in a statement.

Currently, only four states—Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi, and New Hampshire—do not permit early, in-person voting, although they may provide alternatives for eligible absentee voters.

Delaware had previously allowed early voting, but a state court invalidated it on February 23, ruling it unconstitutional.

For years, advocates made efforts to revise the state’s constitution, which rigidly regulated the timing, location, and procedures of elections. Essentially, voters were compelled to cast their ballots at their designated local polling stations on Election Day for general or primary elections, unless they met the state’s strict criteria for absentee voting.

Resistance to change was evident in the state famously dubbed the “Land of Steady Habits,” particularly among Republicans who expressed concerns about eliminating what they perceive as voting safeguards. They also raised questions about whether local voting officials had sufficient funding and staffing to facilitate early voting.

In 2014, Connecticut nearly succeeded in amending its constitution to empower the General Assembly to lift restrictions on early voting and broaden eligibility for absentee ballots.

However, the ballot question, acknowledged by advocates as being poorly phrased and potentially confusing to voters, was ultimately turned down.

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At last, in 2022, voters gave their approval to a constitutional amendment with over 60 percent of the vote, and last year, the General Assembly enacted legislation specifying the particulars. While this primary featured four days of early voting, the upcoming general election will extend that period to 14 days.

“If you want to vote in the presidential primary, today is the final day of early voting, every town has ONE early voting location open today from 10AM-6PM,” Gov. Ned Lamont wrote on X(formerly known as Twitter) Saturday.

In Connecticut’s updated system, when a voter arrives at the polling place, their name is checked against the state’s Centralized Voter Registration System. This system promptly records the individual as having participated in early voting, ensuring that they cannot cast multiple ballots.

Peggy Roberts, the Republican registrar of voters in Stonington, described the start of early voting as “slow but steady,” noting that 61 individuals cast their ballots early on the first day. She mentioned that the early voters have predominantly been older individuals.

“They like the fact that they’re not having to stand in line,” Ms. Roberts remarked, noting that the process of searching for individuals in the computerized voter database has been the most time-consuming aspect and might require adjustments before the general election.

But that process has been educational for some voters, she said.

“In every town there’s a few people who think that it’s easy to cheat and they’re seeing that it’s not easy to cheat,” she said. “It’s very organized and secure,” she added.

Not everyone shared the sentiment. JoLynn Brochu, a Republican, explained that she and her husband, Dan Brochu, opted for early voting after strolling past the Stonington Town Hall.

Despite participating in early voting themselves, they remain unconvinced about the necessity of early voting in Connecticut, advocating instead for a single day for ballot submissions.

“Too much opportunity for cheating,” Ms. Brochu said of the early voting option.

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By Hunter Fielding
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