Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Thursday she hopes Connecticut lawmakers will take steps to permanently expand access to absentee ballots and allow early voting this year, measures she noted have strong support among voters.
The Democrat said she’d also like to see the General Assembly put into law some of the temporary election-related safety measures taken last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including making absentee ballot drop boxes a permanent fixture in Connecticut.
“Very popular with the public. Very helpful to the town clerks as they try to process ballots. So that’s a big priority,” Merrill said.
Connecticut’s constitution currently prevents early voting and expanded eligibility for absentee ballots. Lawmakers agreed last year to temporarily allow COVID-19 as a valid reason to vote by absentee and there’s interest in extending that provision to a handful of special and municipal elections this year.
However, a constitutional amendment is required to permanently expand who can vote by absentee. A proposal is up for debate this session and would require 75% of the House of Representatives and Senate to place the question on the 2022 ballot for voters. If it passes each chamber by a simple majority, it could appear on the 2023 or 2024 ballot.
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Meanwhile, another proposed amendment to allow early voting passed the General Assembly in 2019 with a simple majority. It now needs to pass again in order for the question to be put before voters on the 2022 ballot.
A survey released Thursday by Secure Democracy, a nonpartisan election advocacy group, found strong bipartisan support among Connecticut voters for both measures.
Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, the top Republican senator on the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, has supported allowing COVID-19 to be a reason for voting absentee. However, he criticized Merrill for sending out absentee ballot applications during the pandemic to every person on the voter registration rolls, which he contends are inaccurate and unreliable.
Also on Thursday, Merrill said she plans to seek additional funding so her office can help combat election disinformation.