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Legislature hears testimony on mail-in balloting and early voting

Monday's hearing will discuss bills to change election laws, which will ultimately need voters to change the state's constitution.

CONNECTICUT, USA — On Monday, the state legislature heard testimony on proposed legislation to implement early voting and allow no excuse mail-in balloting.

Officials say Connecticut voters, advocates and organizations from across the state expected to be testifying 

Click here to watch the Government Administration & Elections Committee Hearing live.

Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, supports the two proposals to amend Connecticut's Constitution.

Merrill released the following statement ahead of the hearing:

“Connecticut voters deserve the opportunity to vote by the method of their choice – in-person in a polling place, in-person before Election Day, or by absentee ballot without needing an excuse – just like the voters in 43 other states,” said Secretary Merrill. “In 2020, through the hard work of local election officials of both parties, Connecticut proved that we can allow our voters to choose to vote conveniently. It is time to remove the remaining obstacle from the constitution to make this a reality for future elections.”

Both ideas are ones that voters got a taste of during the 2020 presidential elections.

"I think you shouldn’t have to choose," said Cheri Quickmire, the Executive Director of Connecticut Common Cause. "This is your right, and we should make it as convenient as we can."

"It worked really well. People participated, they were excited to do that and anyone who wasn’t we’re still free to go to the polling place," said Quickmire.

Nearly 636,000 absentee mail-in ballots were cast last November in Connecticut. 

The record number of ballots were made possible when the state allowed for COVID-19 to be a valid excuse to avoid going to the polls. Those ballets could be dropped off 14 days before election day.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has long campaigned for expanding voting options in Connecticut, and on the day before the hearing she took to social media to say that voters turned out in record numbers in 2020 and, "They want more accessible elections, and now is our moment to make it happen."

"My purpose on this committee is to weigh all of the options to expand voting as much as possible while not diminishing the integrity of the polls at the same time," said State Senator Rob Sampson, the ranking member of the legislature's Committee on Government Affairs and Elections.

Sampson says he has open to expanding access to voting. Although, he doesn’t feel allowing no excuse mail-in voting is one of those ways.

"I don’t think there’s a legitimate reason to expand absentee voting," said Sampson. "If you want to create an easier way for people to vote, early voting would be the way to do it because it’ll be done in person."

Connecticut is one of only six states that does not allow early voting. In 2014, an amendment to do so passed the legislature with the 75 percent of the vote needed to do so but was voted down by the people.

Sampson believes this version needs to be clearer on when early voting can begin.

"If you’re going to do early voting you should specify three days, five days. I think that it’s important that it’s in-person early voting also and that’s also not necessarily going to happen with the bill we have," said Sampson.

The public hearings are set to being at 10:30 am Monday morning. legislators believe discussions could go long into the night.

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