Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is calling for a number of voting reforms after a new poll conducted in January finds that a majority of Connecticut voters favor early and no-excuse absentee voting.
At a virtual news conference Thursday, Merrill shared that 79% of Connecticut voters support early voting and 73% support the option to vote by absentee ballot without needing an excuse.
The poll was run by Secure Democracy, a nonpartisan organization. It used polling firm SurveyUSA to interview 808 registered Connecticut voters from Jan. 11 to 17, 2021.
Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation built into its constitution. Because of the pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order allowing all registered voters in Connecticut to vote absentee and by extension vote early because absentee ballots could be returned before Election Day.
Merrill attributes high voter participation in the November 2020 general election to some of these pandemic-related changes.
“We had a 79.7% turnout rate,” Merrill said. “More Connecticut voters participated than in any other election in Connecticut history.”
Future elections will return to business as usual, so Merrill wants to make some of those changes permanent, including early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
The mandate to show up in person on Election Day or to have one of six valid excuses to vote by absentee are baked into Connecticut’s constitution. To change that, an amendment first must pass the legislature and then go to the voters during a statewide election in the form of a ballot measure.
Merrill suspects the early voting question could be on the ballot as soon as 2022. No-excuse absentee voting will likely have to wait until 2024.
Merrill said the support for early voting is bipartisan -- 69% of Republicans, 79% of unaffiliated voters and 86% of Democrats support allowing early in-person voting, according to the poll.
Some 79% of voters surveyed also like the idea of keeping the absentee ballot drop boxes available at their town halls, and 77% support automatic voter registration. That’s already done at the DMV but needs to be put into law, according to Merrill. Other popular measures included allowing voters to request an absentee ballot through a secure website -- rather than having to mail in a paper form -- 66% favor that option. Also, 66% of voters surveyed support allowing voters on parole to regain their right to vote.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that the Secretary of the State's office conducted the survey. It was conducted by SurveyUSA, on behalf of Secure Democracy. Secure Democracy reached out to the Secretary of the State's office with the results.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.