In 2020 for the first time, Connecticut voters were able to use COVID-19 as an excuse to vote by absentee ballot, but that provision has expired.
Lawmakers are debating whether it should continue.
More than 600,000 Connecticut voters cast their votes by absentee ballot in 2020, but that won’t be possible in this November unless lawmakers change the law.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still going and we simply don’t know when another variant will emerge, how fast it will spread, how severe it will be or when it will peak,” Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Merrill testified in support of legislation that would allow COVID-19 to continue to be used as an excuse to vote by absentee ballot.
“Let us choose to protect our health and vote by absentee ballot in 2022,” Merrill said.
Republican lawmakers quizzed Merrill during a public hearing about whether she still believes there’s a public health emergency.
“I’m not an epidemiologist. I have no idea and I think it’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? Everybody’s been struggling with this question,” Merrill said.
“We have many viral illnesses every year, yet we have never had widespread mail-in solicitation of absentee votes for an illness," Linda Dalessio of Wolcott told the General Administration and Elections Committee Friday.
Dalessio opposes the legislation and said it would violate Connecticut's Constitution.
“Introducing vague and unclear language into absentee ballots without a constitutional amendment by the voters violates our current Connecticut Constitution,” she said.
“The recent spike in COVID-9 cases is still very fresh in our minds, serving as a reminder that the pandemic is still very much present and constantly changing,” Brook Smith, a first year student at Yale University, said.
Smith said she wants people to have a choice.
“Senior citizens, immunocompromised voters, Black and brown voters, low income voters and any voters who were just afraid of contracting COVID-19 at the polls deserve to participate in the mid-term election,” Smith said.
Lawmakers won’t be able to vote until next year on a no-excuse absentee voting resolution. If they approve it with a simple majority, it'll go on the ballot and voters will get to decide whether to change the constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting.
Some Republicans are still concerned about absentee ballot fraud, which is why they don’t support the measure.