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Early voting won't roll out this year in CT, Secretary of the State says

FILE: Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie debates in October 18, 2022.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
2022, FILE: Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas says time has run out to make necessary technological improvements in time for the 2023 election season.

Connecticut won’t have early voting in time for elections this year, according to the state’s top elections official.

“I am disappointed, but I like to see opportunity in challenges,” Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said in a Monday interview.

With legislation and budgetary arrangements still working their way through the General Assembly, Thomas said there will not be time to make necessary technological improvements in time for the 2023 election season.

“It wasn't going to be possible with enough of a period to make me comfortable that we could implement it well,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the delay gives state officials time to adequately train poll workers and assuage the concerns of the state’s many registrars of voters.

“Most of our registrars work part-time,” Thomas said. “There's less than two dozen who work full-time. So their concern, in large part, has to do with making sure they have ample opportunity to select and train what we're calling assistant registrars, so that if they or their deputy cannot administer the election during the early voting period, one of their assistants can and that just requires more training. So more time is definitely helpful.”

Connecticut is one of just four states yet to implement some form of in-person early voting. The others are Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire. Nutmeg State voters approved a ballot measure in November to amend the state constitution to allow it.

Voting rights advocates say early voting is a critical component of ensuring fair access to the polls.

“Connecticut voters are busy, especially voters who face interlocking systems of oppression,” said Jess Zaccagnino, policy counsel with the ACLU of Connecticut.

“We were the first state to enact a literacy test, and we were actively using that in the 50s to disenfranchise Puerto Rican voters. We had a poll tax for longer than the state actually existed without one. That ended in 1947, but the effects of systematic exclusion from voting really cascade through generations, and we're still feeling the effects of that,” Zaccagnino said.

The ACLU has called for at least 14 days of early voting leading up to Election Day, including at least one Saturday and one Sunday; early morning and late night hours for voters who aren’t able to show up during traditional business hours; and accessible early voting sites.

The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on Monday advanced legislation outlining the implementation of early voting. Thomas said she thinks the legislature is “moving in the right direction” on the issue, but that funding has yet to be finalized or passed.

“That is the only sort of sticking point that we're waiting to hear back on,” Thomas said. “Making sure that the costs aren't passed off on the towns, because that would make it impossible to implement.”

Patricia Rossi, vice president for advocacy and public affairs at the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, said she and her group will continue to advocate for early voting to be fully funded by the legislature, which she said would run about $9 million.

“We’re going to be really, really unhappy” if the General Assembly puts towns on the hook for some or all of the cost, Rossi said.

“$9 million isn’t that much money for the bedrock of our democracy, which is voting,” Rossi said. “We’re one of four states to have no early voting. Everybody else has figured out how to do it and pay for it — Connecticut should be able to do it too.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.