May 25, 2021

Senator Haskell Joins Senate Passage of Legislation Expanding Access to Voting

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) voted in favor of Senate Bill 5, a comprehensive reform that will bring Connecticut’s elections into the 21st century. Some of the critical provisions included in this bill are the expansion of automatic voter registration, the development of an e-signature system for elections-related forms, and the development of an electronic absentee ballot application system. As Senate Vice-Chair of the Government Administrations and Election Committee, Sen. Haskell spoke on the Senate floor in support of the legislation.

“Across the country, we’re seeing states restrict access to the ballot, making democracy less convenient and government less representative. I’m so proud that Connecticut is moving in the opposite direction. We are modernizing our statutes, making elections more accessible and encouraging young people to make their voice heard,” said Sen. Haskell. “I’m grateful for Senator Flexer’s leadership on this bill, and I’m so excited that my proposal to create a secure online portal for absentee ballot requests has been included in the comprehensive bill. Not too long ago, I was a college student trying my best to apply for an absentee ballot in Connecticut. Frankly it was a hassle, and too many of my peers decided to forgo the headache. This provision will help more young people step up and participate in the democratic process.”

Senate Bill 5, “An Act Concerning Increased Opportunities For Absentee Voting, Safe and Secure In-Person Voting, Voter Registration And Certain Other Changes Regarding Election Administration,” modernizes Connecticut’s voting standards by:

  • Requiring the state Department of Motor Vehicles, voter registration agencies and public higher education institutions to use an electronic system approved by the secretary of the state and compliant with the National Voting Rights Act to automatically transmit voter registration applications for qualified applicants to registrars of voters.
  • Requiring the implementation of e-signature systems for most elections-related forms and applications.
  • Requiring registrars of voters to annually distribute voter registration information at public high schools.
  • Requiring town clerks to post notices for state, municipal elections on the town website.
  • Adding “sibling” to the list of immediate family members and adds designees allowed to return absentee ballots on behalf of voters.
  • Restoring electoral privileges for convicted felons upon release from confinement, eliminating current standards where individuals must be released from community residences, discharged from parole and pay all conviction-related fines before regaining voting rights.
  • Creating a secure, online portal for absentee ballot applications. Ballots would still be delivered in paper format through the mail.
  • Electors suffering from long-term illnesses will be made eligible for permanent absentee ballot status.
  • Electors requiring assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability or inability to read or write can be given assistance at a polling place by a person of their choice.
  • Co-sponsored by Senator Haskell and many of his Democratic colleagues, this legislation improves the accessibility and efficiency of the voting process, putting steps in place to grow the electorate in future elections.

Common Cause Connecticut testified earlier this year that SB5 will make voting more accessible while ensuring security and accuracy of voter rolls through automatic voter registration, a process that allows individuals to register to vote through a single interaction with an eligible government agency like the DMV. The policy has already been adopted in 23 states, it said, and can strengthen the accuracy of voter rolls and save municipalities money in the process. It further endorsed the drop boxes, online absentee ballot application and other examples of what it called “common-sense reforms.”

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving said the legislation matches its ideals for civic and resident engagement, raising up community voice and encouraging participation in the voting process; the AARP Connecticut testified that policies should be enacted encouraging and promoting maximum participation in the electoral process, with SB5 helping to seniors conveniently cast a ballot.