Testimony | Supporting Early Voting (H.J. No. 58) & Vote-By-Mail (H.J. No. 59) | 2.22.21
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
TESTIMONY OF HON. DARRYL BRACKEEN, JR.
CHAIR | GENERATION CHANGE CT
SUBMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION & ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
CONNECTICUT GENERAL ASSEMBLY
PUBLIC HEARING | FEBRUARY 22, 2021
Good morning, Chairs Flexer and Fox, and members of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. My name is Darryl Brackeen, Jr and I am a lifelong resident of New Haven and also serve as alder for the city’s 26th Ward.
I am also the board chair of Generation Change CT, a statewide political action committee whose mission is to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive democracy and economy for all of Connecticut’s residents. In this work, we are committed to making Connecticut a national leader in expanding voting rights and participation, and the two resolutions you are considering today – H.J. No. 58 and H.J. No. 59 – are critical to helping make this a reality for our state and its residents. To this end, I want to voice my strong support for H.J. No. 58, a “Resolution Proposing a State Constitutional Amendment to Allow No-Excuse Absentee Voting,” and H.J. No. 59, a “Resolution Approving an Amendment to the State Constitution to Allow for Early Voting.”
As Connecticut voters overwhelmingly demonstrated in the 2020 election, “no-excuse absentee voting,” better known as vote-by-mail, was a voting option that was eagerly welcomed and embraced all across the state. More than 650,000 Connecticut voters – representing over 35 percent of the total votes cast in the 2020 general election – chose to vote-by-mail. In addition, while early in-person voting was not an option, early voting was an option in the form of vote-by-mail.
While the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in these options as temporary emergency measures, there is no doubt that Connecticut voters want to see them as permanent voting options in our elections moving forward. A recent survey of Connecticut voters showed that 73 percent support allowing all voters to vote-by-mail without needing an excuse and 79 percent support early in-person voting. If we put these constitutional amendments before voters as ballot measures, as these resolutions would promulgate, both would pass resoundingly.
Currently, Connecticut is woefully behind when it comes to voting rights and access. We have one of the most restrictive vote-by-mail laws in the country and we are one of only six states that does not permit early voting as an option for all voters in some form.
Sadly, we also know these kinds of voting restrictions negatively and disproportionately impact communities of color – suppressing the rights and voices of Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous people groups – who for far too long have too often been left out of the process. These two new voting options, once implemented, would begin to help alleviate some of these woes and systemic injustices.
However, I must also note in the strongest possible terms that these two items alone will not come close to fully addressing or solving our voting challenges in Connecticut.
To begin with, additional reforms and measures are needed in order to make these two options – vote-by-mail and early voting – truly practical and accessible options for many voters.
For vote-by-mail to be truly accessible, we need to also enact legislation requiring vote-by-mail applications to be submittable online and requiring prepaid return postage to be included with the actual ballots. In addition, we must also increase the number of Ballot Drop Boxes so there is easy and equitable access for all communities.
For early voting, there should be a set minimum of 15 days for early in-person voting with poll sites evenly distributed across communities, and 31 days for other forms of early voting like vote-by-mail.
Further, in-person voting, mail-in voting and early voting should also be complemented by offering an electronic voting option for voters to utilize through their smartphones, tablets and computers. Electronic voting, or e-voting, has been successfully implemented in multiple towns, counties and states across the country. It’s proven to be safe, secure, convenient and cost-effective, and can be an especially helpful option for voters with disabilities, voters living and serving abroad in active-duty military assignments, and voters in other challenging situations and circumstances.
Indeed, there are so many other critical voting reforms the state legislature can and should act on, several of which are outlined in Generation Change CT’s Voting Rights CT policy agenda, which I’ve appended to my testimony for your further review and consideration.
Today, I urge you to pass these two resolutions – H.J. No. 58 and H.J. No. 59 – and, moving forward, I urge you to commit to making Connecticut a true national leader on voting rights, access and participation.
Thank you for your consideration.
GENERATION CHANGE CT
VOTING RIGHTS CT
In order to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive democracy for all Connecticut residents, Generation Change CT (GCCT) is committed to advancing and supporting the following voting reforms for all local, state and federal elections in Connecticut, including primary, general and special elections.
1. UNIVERSAL VOTER REGISTRATION: Ensure every eligible person in CT is registered to vote.
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR): Codify into state law “Motor-Voter Registration” (currently a memo of agreement) – and expand AVR to include other state agencies.
Same-Day Registration (SDR) and Election Day Registration (EDR): Allow all eligible persons to register to vote (or update their registration status) and cast their ballot at the same time at all poll sites on Election Day and, in the future, during early voting periods.
Pre-Registration: Pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds.
2. UNIVERSAL VOTER ACCESS: Ensure every eligible person has the time & a fair opportunity to vote.
State Holiday: Make the November general election a state holiday.
PTO: For primary and special elections, require employers to provide employees with paid time off for in-person voting (when employees do not have three consecutive hours before or after work when the polls are open).
3. MODERNIZED VOTING OPTIONS: Increase voter participation by offering multiple accessible, convenient and modern voting options.
Early Voting: Amend the CT state constitution to permit early voting, providing at least 15 days via in-person and at least 31 days via other options (ex. mail-in and e-voting).
Mail-In Voting: Amend the CT state constitution to allow mail-in voting (a.k.a. “no excuse absentee voting”) to be a permanent option for all voters. In addition, pass a state law requiring mail-in applications to be made available and submittable online and that prepaid return postage be included with the actual ballots. Also, increase the number of Ballot Drop Boxes so there is easy and equitable access for all communities.
E-Voting: Permit and provide electronic voting options via smartphone, tablet and computer, as is done in multiple other towns, counties and states.
4. BALLOT TRACKING & CURING: Ensure every vote is accounted for and properly counted.
Tracking: Provide improved real-time tracking information for mail-in ballots via text or email (similar to USPS).
Curing: Amend state law to provide voters with the ability to cure their ballots when accidental or inadvertent mistakes are made.
5. RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS: Ensure the right to vote is not "denied" or "abridged" for any citizen regardless of their carceral status.
Formerly Incarcerated: Provide automatic restoration of voting rights and automatic voter registration for all formerly incarcerated or convicted individuals irrespective of probation, parole or fines associated with conviction.
Incarcerated: Moving forward, permit all eligible persons to retain their voting rights while incarcerated, as is the case in Vermont and Maine.
6. EXPAND THE FRANCHISE: Let more Connecticut residents have a voice and a vote in the direction of their local community and in the election of their political leaders.
Permanent Residents: Provide municipalities with the option to permit non-citizen permanent residents to vote in local elections.
16- and 17-year-olds: Lower the voting age to 16 for all local and state elections.
7. END GERRYMANDERING: Give voters “fair maps, fair representation and a fair say” so that voters actually get to choose their politicians and not the other way around.
Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC): Establish a nonpartisan and truly independent redistricting commission empowered to draw fair maps for state and congressional districts.
Prison-based Gerrymandering: When drawing districts, count incarcerated persons where they are from, not where they are imprisoned.
ABOUT GENERATION CHANGE CT (GCCT)
Generation Change CT is a state-based political action committee that seeks to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive democracy and economy for all of Connecticut's residents. GCCT is committed to making Connecticut a national leader in: expanding voting rights and participation; advancing democratic and electoral reforms; and increasing economic opportunity and security. In our work, we are especially committed to centering those from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities, as we seek to secure a better, brighter and more progressive future for Connecticut. To learn more, go to generationchangect.com. To contact us, email email@example.com.