State's Top Election Official Pushes For Changes Ahead of November

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Connecticut’s Secretary of the State is pushing for changes that she says will make this November’s presidential election run smoother than it did four years ago.

Denise Merrill made these exact same proposals last year, but they were never taken up by the Senate.  Now that it’s an election year, she urging lawmakers get this legislation passed and to do it quickly.

“There are going to be long lines folks.  There’s going to be a big turnout in this election.  So, we want to make sure that the towns are planning appropriately,” she said during a press conference on Thursday.

In 2018, there were long lines at certain polling places, especially college towns like New Haven, during the last presidential election.  Some people didn’t get to vote because they didn’t get to the front of the line in time to register by the 8 p.m. deadline.

Merrill said anyone who gets in line for same-day registration by 8 p.m. should have the opportunity to register and then vote.

That’s the rule for those already registered before election day: they just have to be in line by 8.  However, it’s different for those participating in same-day registration.

“The disappointment you see in the faces of the people who are turned away because of some arbitrary rule that 8 o’clock needs to be the stop time for that way to vote but for every other voter is simply wrong,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, a Democrat from Danielson.

Conversely, those registered before election day need not get to the front of the line, just be in line, by 8 p.m. to vote.

“I’m not sure allowing later same-day registration is going to help because it might just cause more confusion, more delays, and more stress on those local registrars and poll workers,” said Rep. J.P. Sredzinski, a Republican from Monroe.

Sredzinski also questioned the cost of such a measure.

“Towns have always paid for elections so an extra few hours to stick around and to make sure everyone gets through the line is certainly not too much to ask,” said Merrill.

Rep. Michael Winkler said he would like to see the state open up early voting.  However, that’s not in Merrill’s proposal.  He said the state has to look for ways to relieve the burden.

“I can understand it’s difficult on the towns,” said Winkler, a Democrat from Vernon.  “If we up here want people to be able to same-day register and vote then I think we have some responsibility to help the towns with this new mandate.”

Another proposal would also all ex-convicts out of prison to vote.

Right now, people on probation are eligible to vote but not those on parole.

Merrill said more needs to be done to remove barriers and expand the right to vote.

“Not only is the current system, I feel unjust, it’s also very confusing.”

The proposal to allow ex-cons currently on parole the right to vote could add 2,000 more people to the voter rolls this election, according to the Secretary of the State.

“You don’t lose your citizenship when you go to jail and I don’t think you should lose your right to vote,” said Winkler.

Merrill said her overall goal of the bill is to remove barriers and expand the right to vote.

“I think of this legislation particularly as convenience for voters.  This is a voter-centric piece of legislation.  We’re trying to make it easier for everyone to vote easily,” said Merrill.

Through a partnership between the Secretary of the State’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles, 400,000 people have registered to vote at the DMV.

However, it was never made state law.

Putting the law on the books is another part of this multi-faceted bill that could be up for public discussion as early as next Friday.

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