During the 2020 election any registered voter in Connecticut could vote by absentee ballot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That won’t be an option for the next election, but the House took the first steps Monday to expand the circumstances to legally obtain an absentee ballot.
“The way it works now is largely an honor system and we assume that the individual who is coming in is actually suffering from some kind of ailment,” House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said.
Rojas says the bill also expands the definition of sickness.
“It expands it beyond just the individual being sick but reflects the realities that you may have a family member who is sick or a child who is sick,” Rojas said.
House Speaker Matt Ritter says it highlights the absurdity of Connecticut's constitution.
“We’re talking about having to make it more clear that somebody who might have a child who is very, very ill to vote by absentee ballot,” Ritter said.
Ritter says many people probably assume this is the law and are doing it without understanding the risk of prosecution.
“It’s beyond comprehension that in 2021 that individuals have to risk the notion that they could be prosecuted because they’re caring for a loved one,” he said.
The House already took steps to amend the constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee ballots, but not by a big enough margin to get it on the ballot in 2022. So the earliest voters would be able to tell the legislature they want to change the constitution would be in 2024.
“To me it’s a bit hypocritical if we need a constitutional amendment for no-excuse absentee ballots then why are we trying to change it statutorily?” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said.
Candelora says he’s not necessarily against allowing someone with a sick parent or child to vote by absentee ballot.
“The change I could agree with but I think it’s overly broad,” he said before voting for it.
Other Republicans weren’t okay with any change.
“I’m sure the founders, the writers of our constitution clearly meant that they were talking about an individual. What this bill is trying to do is redefine that,” Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, said.
“We are creating in effect a form of no excuse absentee ballot because sickness is here every single day,” she added.
The bill passed the House 117-28 and is now headed to the Senate.