MORE THAN 80 GOOD GOVERNMENT GROUPS, FAITH LEADERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS & LABOR LEADERS CALL FOR HISTORIC VOTING RIGHTS AGENDA

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  • Cheri Quickmire

MORE THAN 80 GOOD GOVERNMENT GROUPS, FAITH LEADERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS & LABOR LEADERS CALL FOR HISTORIC VOTING RIGHTS AGENDA

‘Our Voice, Our Vote CT’ Builds on Success of 2020 Election; Calls for Expanded Absentee Ballots, Early Voting, Automatic Voter Registration, Voting Rights for People on Parole & More

(Hartford, CT)— Today, a broad coalition of good government groups, faith leaders, civil rights organizations and labor leaders from across Connecticut called on legislative leaders to support a historic and ambitious voting rights agenda in the 2021 legislative session, including expanded absentee ballot rights, early voting, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), voting rights for people on parole and more. The call to action – spearheaded by Common Cause in Connecticut – has broad support from more than 80 groups ranging from the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, to Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, SEIU, and the ACLU of Connecticut.

Polling released by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill last week demonstrated overwhelming bipartisan support for these measures, including 79% of voters in favor of allowing all voters to vote by absentee, 79% support for early voting, 77% support for AVR, and 66% support for restoring voting rights for people on parole.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Governor Lamont, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and the Connecticut legislature acted quickly to implement temporary voting reforms to ensure that Connecticut residents could safely exercise their right to vote. Those measures included expanded absentee ballot voting, mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters, and the installation of secure drop-boxes. Despite these temporary reforms, Connecticut still lags behind states across the country on issues of voter access. That’s why more than 80 groups, are calling on Connecticut leaders to prioritize a legislative agenda that includes:

● A constitutional amendment to allow all registered voters to vote by absentee ballot without an “excuse”
● A constitutional amendment to allow early, in-person voting
● Legislation to allow for absentee ballots to be counted early
● Legislation to implement automatic voter registration (AVR) and update the online voter registration (OVR) system
● Legislation to restore the right to vote for people on parole

“The 2020 election was the most successful election in recent history – despite the pandemic – thanks to the swift actions taken by Connecticut leaders to temporarily expand voting rights. But if legislators don’t act quickly to make these common-sense reforms permanent, Connecticut will soon take a step backwards at the expense of voters,” said Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common Cause in Connecticut. “The outpouring of support from this diverse coalition demonstrates the overwhelming demand for a more modern, accessible, and streamlined voting process. We strongly urge legislators to make these measures including expanded absentee ballot voting, early voting, AVR, and voting rights for individuals on parole an early priority this session. We don’t have time to waste.”

***The Letter Sent to Legislative Leaders is Below***

February 4, 2021

Dear Legislative Leaders:

When COVID-19 hit, members of the legislature, Governor Lamont and Secretary Merrill jumped into action to safeguard voting rights and ensure that voting would be safe, secure and accessible throughout the pandemic. Thanks to that leadership and the temporary expansion of voter access that it allowed – including expanded absentee ballot voting, mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters, and the installation of secure drop-boxes – Connecticut was able to run one of its smoothest elections in recent history. Voter participation reached near-record highs with nearly 80% of registered voters participating, lines at the polls were manageable, and results came in on time.

The truth is that despite these temporary reforms, Connecticut still lags behind our neighbors and states across the country when it comes to voter access. We urge all members of the Connecticut General Assembly to support Our Voice, Our Vote CT- an ambitious voting rights legislative agenda that must be prioritized as early as possible this session, including:

1. A constitutional amendment to allow all registered voters to vote by absentee ballot without an “excuse”
2. A constitutional amendment to allow early, in-person voting
3. Legislation to allow for absentee ballots to be counted early
4. Legislation to implement automatic voter registration (AVR) and update the online voter registration (OVR) system
5. Legislation to restore voting rights for individuals on parole

These steps are commonsense, bipartisan, long overdue, and will make Connecticut a national leader when it comes to voter access and voting rights. The 2020 election was the first time our state allowed all voters to vote by absentee ballot – and it was an incredible success, with close to 700,000 (more than one in three) voters choosing to vote absentee, and fewer than 1% of ballots rejected. Connecticut also did the right thing by passing legislation that allowed municipal officials the ability to pre-process absentee ballots early, which gave local registrars and election workers the time they needed to ensure that results would be tabulated quickly, accurately and transparently. As a result, Connecticut avoided the weeks of uncertainty that other states encountered, and upheld the strength of our democratic process. This session, we have the chance to make these temporary reforms permanent – we can’t afford to let that opportunity pass us by.

Connecticut must also take this historic opportunity to join the 44 other states across the country that allow in-person early voting. Early voting is a simple step that would make our voting process more accessible while helping to cut down on Election Day lines. For many working families, getting to the polls on Election Day is no easy task, forcing some to choose between family and work obligations, and their civic duty. With early voting, they would no longer be forced to make that choice.

Enacting early voting, as well as expanding absentee ballot voting, would require a constitutional amendment, like the one proposed by Secretary Merrill. We agree with Secretary Merrill that voters shouldn’t have to wait years for these reforms to become reality – the time for these reforms is now.

It’s also time for Connecticut to pass automatic voter registration (AVR) into law. Implementing AVR will help hundreds of thousands of new voters automatically register. By reducing paperwork and streamlining the process of voter registration when residents interact with state agencies, AVR will allow Connecticut to modernize our elections and keep our voter rolls up to date, while ultimately saving taxpayer dollars at a time when lawmakers will be making difficult choices to address the budget deficit. We also urge the legislature to take this opportunity to support updating our online voter registration (OVR) system by allowing people to register to vote with a social security number in case they do not have a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) ID. Doing so will help bring our registration system into the 21st century and make the process, faster, as well as more open and accessible to all eligible residents.

Restoring voting rights for individuals on parole is an issue that strikes at the heart of social and racial justice. Stripping the right to vote from those on parole, is an act of disenfranchisement that has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Connecticut for far too long. By restoring the right to vote for people on parole, Connecticut can begin to remove barriers to voting for thousands of people, and help welcome back individuals looking to reengage in their communities. Every electorate in Connecticut should be able to exercise their right to vote and receive representation – including those who are reentering society.

In 2019, AVR passed in the House but was left in the Senate until the last day of session, ultimately never getting brought up for a final vote. We can’t afford to let that happen again – Connecticut voters deserve action on voting rights and voter access this session. That’s why we – a coalition of good government groups and other organizations who share this vision are writing today to strongly urge our legislative leaders to make Our Voice, Our Vote CT a priority from day one.

Sincerely,

ACLU of Connecticut
Action Together CT
Action Together CT – New Haven County
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Connecticut
Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC)
Black and Brown United in Action
BLM 860
Board of the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students’ Association, Yale Law School
Bridgeport Generation Now Votes
Bristol Branch NAACP
CAIR Connecticut
Center for Latino Progress
Cheshire Democratic Town Committee
Clean Water Action
Collaborative Center for Justice
Common Cause in Connecticut
Communications Workers of America Local 1298
Congregation Mishkan Israel
Connecticut AFL-CIO
Connecticut Citizen Action Group
Connecticut Employees Union Independent CEUI SEIU Local 511
Connecticut Federation of Democratic Women
Connecticut League of Conservation Voters
Connecticut Working Families
CONNPIRG Students
CSEA SEIU Local 2001
CT Alliance for Retired Americans
CT Black Women
Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington
First & Summerfield United Methodist Church
Generation Change CT
Greater Hartford Progressive Democratic Women’s Club
Greater New Haven NAACP
Hamden Action Now
Hamden Democratic Town Committee
Hamden Progressive Action Network (HamPAN)
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Hartford Votes~Hartford Vota Coalition
Heritage Village Democratic Club
Hispanic Federation Connecticut State Office
Keep the Promise Coalition
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
League of Women Voters of the Bridgeport Area Inc.
Make Voting Easy-CT
Moral Monday CT
National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter
National Organization for Women (NOW)
New Britain Racial Justice Coalition
New Haven Democratic Town Committee
New Haven Peoples Center
New Haven Rising
New Haven Votes Coalition
Norwalk Women Who Vote
Our Revolution Connecticut
PAN34 (Progressive Action Network for the 34th district)
PerSisters
PoliticaCT
Power Up Manchester
Progressive Women of Greater Hartford
ReSisters
Road to Rights
SEIU – CT State Council
SEIU 32BJ
Sierra Club Connecticut
Social Action Council, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury
Southbury Democratic Town Committee
Southern New England Conference United Church of Christ
Southington Democratic Town Committee
State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC)
The 4Cs SEIU 1973
The Arc Connecticut
The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport
UAW Region 9A
Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut
University of Connecticut AAUP
University of Connecticut School of Social Work
Urban Concepts, Inc.
UU the Vote CT
Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
Voter Choice Connecticut
Wallingford Democratic Town Committee
Waterbury Muslims
West Hartford Womens Huddle (WEHA)
Western Connecticut Action Network
Western Connecticut Area Labor Federation
Woodbury Democratic Town Committee
YWCA Greenwich
YWCA New Britain