Bob Duff

Senate Majority Leader

Bob Duff

Standing Up For You!

July 28, 2020

Senate Democrats Lead Passage of Expanded Absentee Voting Law in Connecticut

HARTFORD – Democratic Senate leaders applauded the final passage in the Senate today of a bill that will allow Connecticut citizens who are concerned about contracting the coronavirus at a polling location this year to vote instead by absentee ballot – an option which had previously been denied them.

The Senate today approved House Bill 6002, “AN ACT CONCERNING ABSENTEE VOTING AT THE 2020 STATE ELECTION AND ELECTION DAY REGISTRATION,” by a vote of 35-1; the bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week and now heads to Governor Lamont, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

“We were facing the unconscionable scenario in November’s general election of having an untold number of Connecticut residents put their health and lives at risk in order to exercise their right to vote. That situation had to be prevented,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said today. “The bill we have now passed and sent on to the governor is somewhat limited in scope, but its impact should be highly consequential for those who value public participation and making their voices heard on the issues of the day. Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, and today we protected that critical right for all of Connecticut’s residents.”

“I’ve been invigorated by the public debate around expanding absentee ballot access, and I think it bodes well for any future discussions the legislature may have regarding other changes to Connecticut’s voting regulations which, quite frankly, need to catch up with the times,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said. “Sometimes it takes a crisis to appreciate not only what you have, but to realize what changes we need to make. Social interaction and the ability to vote your conscience without fear of contracting a deadly disease is something that we all value and that maybe we took a little bit for granted until now. This bill will help remedy any health concerns our citizens may have and will ensure that we can continue with the representative democracy that makes our state and our nation so great.”

Connecticut law currently only allows its state residents to vote by absentee ballot for six specific reasons:

  • If the voter is on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces
  • If the voter will be absent from town during the entire time that polls are open
  • If the voter is ill
  • If the voter has a physical disability which prevents them from voting in person
  • If the voter’s religion prohibits them from voting that day
  • Or if the voter is working at the polls in a primary, election or referendum

But the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 48,000 people in Connecticut and killed more than 4,400 state residents, has raised concerns about standing in line at the polls, or voting in a crowded polling location – especially for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, who are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus.

The solution is (House or Senate bill number), which amends Connecticut law for 2020 only to allow for absentee voting due to “the sickness of COVID-19.”

The bill also allows any person who is in line to vote before polls close at 8 p.m. to access Connecticut’s “same-day registration” procedure at that polling location, as long as they meet all of the state’s voter eligibility requirements; existing state law only allows for same-day voter registration from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at specific locations in town, but then the voter must proceed to their own local polling place in order to cast their vote.

The issue of expanded absentee voting in Connecticut received widespread support at last week’s public hearing on the bill, when nearly 250 people submitted testimony online or via email. The bill was supported by the AARP, the League of Women Voters, ConnPIRG, the ACLU, the CCAG, disability rights advocates, religious leaders, retirees, civic organizations, municipal officials, social workers, and hundreds of others.

Connecticut has an unusually low absentee voting record when compared to America as a whole. There have been 21.7 million ballots cast in Connecticut over the past 32 years, with only 1.5 million cast via absentee ballot – just seven percent all votes cast, according to online statistics from the Secretary of the State’s office.

But in 2018, 23% of all U.S. residents voted via absentee ballot, according to the U.S. Census – more than three times Connecticut’s average. In 2018, only 60% of Americans physically voted in-person at a polling location, while in Connecticut, 94% of state residents voted in-person.