Editorial: Voting by mail is the way to go
Gov. Ned Lamont did the right thing when he announced last week, that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut voters may use absentee ballots in the Aug. 11 primaries. He signed an executive order to make it so.
The law that governs absentee voting has been under intense discussion lately. Connecticut is one of only nine states in the country to not allow widespread mail-in ballots. Many have suggested updating the law — and allowing voting by mail — and the current health crisis has made acting on this imperative.
State law authorizes the use of an absentee ballot for six reasons:
A voter’s active service in the armed forces.
Absence from town during all hours of voting.
Duties as an election official.
With nearly 3,500 people having died from the highly contagious novel coronavirus, it would be unconscionable for the state to require people to choose between their health and their right to vote. Our Declaration of Independence says two of the inalienable rights to which we are endowed are life and liberty. Life is self-evident. The cornerstone of liberty is the ability to vote for those we put at the head of our government.
“Nobody should need to make a decision between their health and their right to vote,” Lamont said. “Our state has taken every responsible step to this point to ensure that our residents are safe, and the next step we must take is to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 when Connecticut residents cast their ballots. We must guarantee access to the ballot, and this is a way to do that during these extraordinary circumstances. I do not take this decision lightly, and it is with the public health and welfare of residents in mind.”
What will happen now is what happened recently in New York.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said every registered voter in the state will receive an absentee ballot application in the mail. Those who wish to vote absentee will need to fill out the application and return it in order to obtain a ballot.
After processing, all voters who requested one will receive an absentee ballot in the mail, which will include a postage-paid return envelope. Each town will also have a secure dropbox in a prominent location to allow voters to deliver their absentee ballots in person without close personal contact.
Those who wish to vote at a polling place may do so. Wilton’s three polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 11.
The presidential preference primary was initially scheduled to be held on April 28, but to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, Lamont signed an executive order rescheduling it to June 2. Another executive order pushed it to Aug. 11, the same date the state was already scheduled to hold primaries for other federal, state, and local offices.
While the governor’s executive order is good for the primary, the state legislature should act to revise the law permanently when it meets in special session this summer. If not, the governor should order absentee ballots may be used for the Nov. 3 election as well.
This would be only a temporary fix. In non-pandemic times, the state should be working to make it easier for people to participate in democracy and vote.
Two-thirds of the states allow no-excuse mail-in voting. Why not Connecticut?
Four-fifths of the states allow early voting. Why not Connecticut?
One concern is the possibility of fraud, but that is not borne out in the evidence in other states that have had more progressive voting for years, including five states that conduct elections entirely by mail.
Every election is important, but a presidential one even more so as the future direction of the country is at stake. Connecticut must ensure that citizens won’t have to choose between their vote and their health.