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Connecticut Democrats working to convince Republicans to support no-excuse absentee voting

Absentee Ballots
John Froschauer

This story was updated to clarify that Connecticut Democrats want to reissue an emergency order that allowed no excuse absentee balloting during the pandemic. The process to codify the measure into state law requires further action by the next body of the state General Assembly prior to it being put before the voters to decide by referendum.

Connecticut Democrats have 11 weeks to convince their Republican colleagues this legislative session to reissue an emergency authorization that allows no-excuse absentee voting in the state.

During the 2020 presidential election, Governor Ned Lamont by executive order allowed Connecticut voters to vote by mail to curb the spread of pandemic. That option is not available to voters this November without action from the state General Assembly, which assumed responsibility of responding to the pandemic when Lamont's pandemic powers came to an end this month.

Senator Mae Flexer, a Democrat in Killingly, who is the chair of the state’s government administration and electoral committee, said the Democrats would attempt to change the “hearts and minds” of their Republican counterparts in the coming weeks.

“I would be really thrilled if our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate would come on board with having the amendment for no-excuse absentee balloting [for] this year’s ballot for Connecticut voters to decide in November,” Flexer said.

Senate President Martin Looney of New Haven said he was concerned that voter turnout in November would be poor without absentee voting.

“The pandemic is still a threat,” Looney said. “We think that voter turnout will be diminished unless we have the option for expanded absentee balloting.”

To allow no-excuse absentee balloting in future elections, Connecticut residents would have to vote to change the state constitution. Seventy-five percent of the state House and Senate would have to vote — with bipartisan support — to approve a referendum ballot question to have voters decide whether to amend the state constitution. Such a vote failed last year.

Changing the state constitution to allow early voting is already on the ballot this November. That gives Democrats hope they can convince enough Republicans to allow another statewide referendum when the next legislative body is seated in 2023.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.