Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

March 15, 2018

Senate President Pro Tempore Looney: Strengthen Our Democracy by Making Voting More Convenient for Connecticut Workers and College Students

In testimony submitted today to the Government Administration and Elections Committee, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) warned that with voting rights under attack across the nation, now more than ever Connecticut needs to protect everyone’s right to participate in our democracy, and he advocated for a constitutional amendment allowing early voting and a bill expanding polling places to additional college campuses.

Both proposals are included in the Democratic Values Agenda, released earlier this year by the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses.

“Voting is one of the most sacred rights we have as a democracy. However, access to the ballot box did not come to where it is today without numerous changes to our nation’s laws and Constitution,” wrote Senator Looney. “Ultimately, the expansion of enfranchisement has strengthened our democracy. I believe early voting is the next step in this long history.”

At least 37 states and the District of Columbia allow voters some access to early voting. More than one-third of the United States now casts ballots before Election Day.

“Early voting will help us increase voter participation and help ensure that Connecticut’s elected officials, like me, are hearing from everyone who wishes to cast a ballot,” Senator Looney continued. “Connecticut needs to catch up with its fellow states and provide its residents with better access to the ballot box.”

Additionally, Senator Looney submitted testimony in favor of H.B. 5420, An Act Requiring Additional Polling Places at Institutions of Higher Education During State Elections

“College campuses are where students get their housing, work, education, and meals—it is time that they also serve as a place where they can cast a ballot,” Senator Looney wrote.

Connecticut state statute sets forth numerous rules and regulations for towns in determining the place for holding elections. Sec. 9-168 dictates that the legislative bodies of towns may determine the sole voting locations for the municipality. Sec. 9-169 allows towns to divide up the municipality into voting districts, allowing for multiple voting districts.

Other statutes go further to ensure accessibility for voters at these locations. Rules ensure accessibility for the physically disabled and determine parking locations for the handicapped, infirm, and elderly.

“While these statutes and others are sufficient for many municipalities and voting populations, they do not go far enough for a special segment of our population: college students,” continued Senator Looney. “College students living at or near campus are a unique concentration of our population. By nature of the average college education, this population is highly transient, usually without reliable transportation and often in an area completely unfamiliar to them. Most college students are unable to travel off campus or even know what lies off campus.”