Push to Expand Voting Rights in Connecticut

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Outside Town Hall in Hamden on Sunday, activists joined with faith leaders, community members and others to send a message to lawmakers at the state Capitol.

They’re demanding a vote this week in the state House of Representatives on two pieces of voting rights legislation: House Joint Resolutions 58 and 59.

No-excuse absentee voting is the focus of one of the constitutional amendments.

“We are behind almost every other state in the country. We are one of the last few states that requires an excuse in order to vote by absentee ballot. That’s unacceptable,” said Jennifer Pope of the Hamden Progressive Action Network.

The other measure deals with allowing early voting.

“We really have to take into consideration those essential workers, especially in the Black and brown community, that works two and three jobs and they are not able to take some time out of the day to go to a poll and stand in line to cast their vote,” said Pastor Kelcy G.L. Steele of the Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.

Supporters point out changes to voting made by executive order during the pandemic show the state can do better. And now is the time for permanent updates.

“We need to have this in place. It should have been in place. It’s outrageous. So it’s overdue,” said Rhona Caldwell of the Hamden Action Now Lead Organizer.

Republicans have raised concerns about changing the Constitution and the security of expanding absentee ballots.

A spokesperson said Speaker Matt Ritter wants a vote as soon as possible but we’re told it’s hard to nail down a specific time.

Ultimately, voters could get to weigh in on the constitutional amendments in the coming years.

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