Nobody Told Me That: Pass the amendment, start the conversation

When voters arrive at the polling place for the Nov. 4 election this year, they’ll see a Yes/No question on their ballots, along with the names of candidates running for state and federal offices. The question asks voters whether they favor removing restrictions on Election Day in-person voting and restrictions on absentee voting from the language of the state constitution. The wording on the ballot will read:

“Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”

Posters at the polls will display explanatory text for all voters to review before casting their ballots. The League of Women Voters of Connecticut — which supports a YES vote — has provided information explaining the background of the question.

What does this question mean?

If voters approve this referendum, restrictive language will be removed from the constitution, enabling state representatives and state senators to propose, debate, and consider future options for absentee and in-person voting. In essence, removal of restrictions allows Connecticut citizens a voice in future decisions.

How does the state constitution restrict voting in Connecticut?

Connecticut’s constitution stipulates that ballots must be cast in person only on Election Day — which is why there’s been no “early voting” in Connecticut except for absentee voting. Furthermore, the constitution actually specifies the reasons for absentee voting to limited excuses — illness or disability, absence from the town during all voting hours, military service, religious prohibitions, or service as an elections official. Because these restrictions are contained in the state constitution, lawmakers have not been able even to consider any modern elections changes like early voting or no-excuses absentee voting.

Why is this constitutional amendment question on the ballot?

If a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment passes both houses of the Connecticut General Assembly, the amendment is submitted to the voters. In this case, Resolution 36, which proposed this referendum question, passed the Senate and House in 2012 and 2013.

Can legislators make changes to voting methods after we adopt this amendment? 

Yes, but changes will not automatically occur. If the question is approved by the voters, any and all proposals must still go through our state’s usual legislative process in both houses of the General Assembly.

What will a No vote mean?

A NO vote means that the Connecticut legislature will be unable to consider changes to in-person voting on Election Day or the expanded use of absentee ballots.

Do other states have voting alternatives?

Yes. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow any qualified voter to cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day with no excuses or justification required.

Why do some citizens oppose the passage of the amendment?

Some oppose allowing the state legislature the option to make changes to election laws and lift the restrictions currently in place. Others may feel that voters should be required to vote in-person only on Election Day and should not be allowed broader access to absentee balloting.

Remember, a “yes” vote does not change the existing laws but would allow the legislature to consider future options like absentee voting or early voting.

Why does the League of Women Voters support a YES vote?

The League of Women Voters supports giving citizens and their elected officials the option to discuss and debate additional methods to engage voters in our democracy. The League believes that starting the conversation about alternative voting opportunities will help make voting more convenient and accessible for all Connecticut voters, regardless of their political party, their age, or their time constraints.

This is a series of columns in which the Wilton League of Women Voters discusses commonly asked questions about Wilton’s town meetings and elections. For more information, contact us through our web site or write to us at PO Box 71, Wilton, CT 06897.