Elections

Absentee Balloting Not a New Concept in Connecticut

The practice of using absentee ballots in Connecticut dates back to the Civil War

NBC Universal, Inc.

Absentee voting has been on a bigger stage than ever before, due to the pandemic. 

It’s not a new concept, dating back more than a century and a half in Connecticut.

The issue of absentee balloting appeared to first become a question during the Civil War, with soldiers wanting their voices to be heard in the Presidential election of 1864, in which Abraham Lincoln was trying to get a second term in office.

“People would be amazed to hear that we’ve been doing absentee balloting here in Connecticut since the Civil War.  It’s not a new idea”, said Bishop John Selders, assistant dean of students at Trinity College in Hartford.

You can find evidence of this absentee balloting all the way back in 1864, thanks to artifacts kept by the Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut Historical Society.

Newspaper articles from the time period outlined the debate people had about the idea…an opinion column from July 29, 1864 saying in part, “….do those citizens who have left the comfort of home…possess less stake or less interest in the good of the country…?”

The Connecticut State Library shared a glimpse of a register of the thousands of Civil War soldiers who did vote in 1864.  It included soldiers from Hartford to New Haven, and Stafford to Salisbury, plus many other towns and cities.

The Connecticut Historical Society also shared a Lincoln-Johnson ticket it has in its collection. 

To the best of its knowledge, this pre-printed flyer could legally be used as an actual ballot as well.

All of this showed that no matter what the challenge, be it a civil war, a pandemic like the 1918 flu, or even World War I and World War II, our state, and country, have been creative in efforts to preserve our right to vote.

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