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Civil Rights groups, leaders call for passage of bill that protects against voting discrimination

Advocates explained that SB 471 could be a huge step forward, especially for communities of color.

HARTFORD, Conn — With about two weeks left in the general session, voter advocate organizations and leaders gathered outside the state Capitol on Thursday to urge lawmakers to pass a voter's rights act in Connecticut.

"This bill gives Connecticut the strongest protection against voting discrimination of any state law ever," explained Steven Lance, Policy Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Advocates explained that SB 471 could be a huge step forward, especially for communities of color. Where, unfortunately, Connecticut's restrictive voting laws have fostered voter discrimination. 

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"Whether they're holding multiple jobs and they can't get off of work, whether they can't get child care, if the lines are too long, even if there are not enough ballots at the voting center," passionately listed Claudine Fox with ACLU of Connecticut. "Our folks are turned away consistently and constantly every time an election comes up."

This is why she and other advocates stressed the importance of SB 417. 

"It creates mechanisms for Black and brown voters to identify and resolve discriminatory election rules," said Lance. 

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The bill would strengthen language assistance for people who don't speak English, as well as provide action to challenge discriminatory structures in local elections. It would also strengthen protections against voters' intimidation and create a preclearance program so that certain areas with a history of discrimination will be required to pre-clear new voting changes before they go into effect.

"The state of Connecticut can lead, and it can serve as a beacon," said Ingrid Alvarez, VP for Policy for the Hispanic Federation. "It can be bold in swift and into action and protecting and ensuring that all its citizens have equitable access at the ballot." 

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Lance said the plan is to have Connecticut lead the way in fighting voter discrimination. He explained SB 471  has already passed out of committee and has gotten support from the legislator—but the goal is to get it approved in the next two weeks. 

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


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