Justice and Equity Demand Equal Representation

Why Connecticut must update its voting laws

Ann Gadwah

Justice and Equity Demand Equal Represen

Connecticut is a fairly liberal state. We like to think of ourselves as a state of fairness and equality, that we are forward thinking. So why do we have some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country? Why are Black and Brown Communities often left out of the electoral process due to restrictive and archaic rules? We here at Sierra Club Connecticut know that when folks are left out of the election process, and therefore not represented in government, their communities’ needs may not be met. But when all people are able to easily vote and elect folks that truly represent their interests, the government functions for the people. Fortunately, there are several bills up for a vote in the state legislature that would help alleviate these restrictions and create a Connecticut government that is truly representative of the people that live here.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your legislators to support voting rights here.

House Bill 6578 would codify the practice of Automatic Voter Registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and restore voting rights to felons on parole. We must ensure easy access to voter registration for all people and make sure all voices are heard in the political process. 

 

House Joint Resolution 58 and House Joint Resolution 59, if passed, would require a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to allow for no excuse absentee voting and for early voting respectively. Due to COVID-19, voters in Connecticut were allowed both options in 2020. This led to a record high turnout. The state constitution doesn’t allow either under normal circumstances, so to make it permanent, we must amend it. 

 

Senate Bill 5 will expand Automatic Voter Registration beyond the Department of Motor Vehicles to other state agencies, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Social Services, Access Health CT, and HUSKY. It expands opportunities for absentee voting, and restores voting rights to people on parole. It also changes election laws to guarantee safe and secure in-person voting. 

 

Senate Bill 820 will create a state Voting Rights Bill, modeled after the national voting rights bill, which if you remember was gutted about six years ago by the Supreme Court. This bill would:

  1. Provide voters of color with a right of action against municipalities that suppress minority votes or dilute minority voting strength

  2. Require municipalities with a record of racial discrimination to get authorization to change their election rules or practices

  3. Require language assistance requirements

  4. Create a database of election data for election administration and voting rights enforcement 

  5. Provide voters with right of action against voter intimidation, deception, or obstruction 

Connecticut voters of color have faced long standing and evolving threats to their voting rights. We must protect and expand the right to vote. 

 

Senate Bill 1017 would retain the absentee ballot drop boxes used throughout the state in the 2020 election. These were a safe, easy, and effective way to collect absentee ballots.

 

These bills, if passed, would expand access to both voter registration and to the ballot box. They would guarantee the right to vote to folks regardless of who they are or where they live. If we are truly to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we must do all we can to guarantee equal representation and the right to vote for all. 

Tell your legislators to support these bills here.

Ann Gadwah is the Advocacy and Outreach Organizer of Sierra Club Connecticut.