NB Politicus

Stuck in the 18th Century: State Constitution Impedes Voting By Mail, Early Voting

Posted in 2020 Election, polling, state government, state politics, Voting, Voting Rights by nbpoliticus on June 11, 2020

By John McNamara

Pandemic Prompts Legislation To Allow Absentee Voting Option For All In November But Ballot Reforms Shouldn’t Stop There

Our license plates proudly proclaim Connecticut the “Constitution State” because the state constitution was one of the colonial documents that guided the Founders of the nation when they wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

While a score of other states have ballot access via vote by mail and periods of early voting before Election Day, Connecticut is stuck in another century because of its storied Constitution and a restrictive absentee voting statute.

Amid the public health threat of pandemic the absentee voting statute is expected to change at a special session of the General Assembly in July. Governor Lamont, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Democratic legislative leaders are on board to extend absentee voting to every voter this year. As Merrill said to Meriden’s “Drinking Liberally” Zoom political forum on June 9th: “The last thing we want is to have people make a choice between their health and their vote.”

Opposition can be expected from Republican Party leaders intent on restricting voter access as much as possible. CT Republican Chair J.R. Romano is hard at work parroting the discredited assertions of voter fraud.

The need to add a public health emergency option to the absentee voting law would have been moot had a 2014 constitutional amendment referendum been approved in that year’s gubernatorial election. To the question “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?” a majority (52%) voted no. Proponents blamed an underfunded “Yes” campaign and the wording of the question for its defeat. A contributing factor was the fact that almost 150,000 more voters chose a Governor but never made it to the question at the bottom of the ballot. The amendment lost by 38,000. Approval would have empowered the legislature to enact “no excuse” absentee voting and paved the way for early voting that accounts for an increasing percentage of turnout in other states.

Connecticut law limits use of absentee balloting to those who will be out of town on election day, members of the armed forces, for an illness or physical disability, religious beliefs and for serving as an election official other than at a place than where you vote. It’s likely this summer’s legislation will extend the right to vote by mail when an illness-causing public health emergency exists to stay within the bounds of the constitution.

Secretary of the State Merrill says she is working with local registrars to open all polling places on November 3rd with any required social distancing that’s needed. A statewide secure mailing operation will be used to support voting by mail for any voter who wants to do so as long as the Legislature revises the absentee voting law. Her office has a $5 million COVID 19 federal grant to meet election costs but could probably use more. According to Merrill, election officials at the local and state level face a daunting task to ensure full voter access but that steps are being taken now “to make this a smooth election.”

One of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 may be to accelerate the movement to adopt post-pandemic statutory and constitutional changes allowing no excuse absentee voting and early voting in Connecticut.

In April the New Britain Democratic Town Committee (DTC) adopted a resolution to extend absentee voting to all this year and called for a new campaign to change the constitution. The DTC also endorsed the federal Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 now before Congress that would extend voter access and provide states with new funding for election security.

The nonpartisan CT-SAM Task Force, led by former Metro Hartford Alliance CEO and gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel, is primarily pushing ranked-choice voting, term limits and open primaries but its platform also includes “removing obstacles to legal voter registration and….early voting, vote-at-home options, and/or by making election day a national holiday.”

Beyond this pandemic a broad-based and well supported coalition will be needed to make the permanent changes in the Constitution in a 2022 referendum. “It’s very difficult to change a constitution,” notes Secretary Merrill. “This situation has laid bare the limitations in Connecticut.” The hope is we can keep our venerable Constitution but tweak it enough to allow full voting access in the 21st century.

Registrars Move To Re-Locate Two Polling Places For Primary, November Election

Posted in city politics and government, polling, Voting Rights by nbpoliticus on June 19, 2016

By John McNamara

New Britain’s Registrars of Voters are moving to change polling places in Districts 6 and 13 in time for an August 8th Primary and the November 8th Presidential Election.right-to-vote1

Republican Peter Gostin and Democrat Juan Verdu have identified Angelico’s Cafe restaurant on East Main Street to replace the State Armory in Voting District 6 in the 25th Assembly District. Angelico’s is a stone’s throw away from the Armory location which is located at the corner of East Main and Smalley Streets.

In Voting District 13 in the 26th Assembly District the vacant  Holy Cross School (Saint John Paul II) is the proposed site for a new polling station. Registrars have contacted  the parish to use the school property at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Boulevard to replace the HRA (formerly Ben Franklin School) on Clinton Street.

In letters to Angelico’s and Holy Cross Church the registrars have proposed use of the new sites for $500 each for this year’s voting in what appears to be a temporary move

The pending relocations in two of the city’s 15 voting districts follows a March feasibility study on polling locations presented to the Common Council by the Registrars.  The study backed off from a sweeping draft plan  developed by Gostin and supported by Verdu that drew strong opposition and a City Hall protest,  especially over shutting down on-site voting at the Graham and School Apartments where older and minority voters reside. Democrats  argued that radical changes in polling places ahead of the Presidential election would impede voter access.  The feasibility study identified  the State Armory as the most costly of the polling places and cited parking issues at HRA, the city’s community action agency and Head Start center, as reasons for relocation.

The possible moves in this election cycle to Angelico’s in District 6 and Holy Cross (JPII School) for District 13 appear to be less controversial than what was proposed earlier this year. The draft plan, floated under the guise of saving the city money, raised voter suppression concerns because of the impact on locations in the center of the city. The Registrars, backing down from the original draft plan and any immediate changes, recommended “that any actions to merge, consolidate and/or move district lines and polling locations should be delayed until the 2017 election cycle” in their feasibility study. The relocations in District 6 and 13 are proposed for this year but may be extended.

Polling location changes are generally made only when district lines are re-drawn after the 10-year census that will next be implemented after 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CT Capital Report polling: Science of push button survey has skeptics

Posted in polling, state politics by nbpoliticus on October 9, 2010

No question political junkies can’t get enough of polls in the run up to elections. In 2010, Connecticut is seeing an extraordinary amount of polling because of the high stakes U.S. Senate race and an open seat for Governor.

In addition to the well-established Quinnipiac Poll, national outfits such as Rasmussen are measuring voter sentiment in the Nutmeg state in a big way.  These have more than made up for the loss of the Courant/UCONN poll that was Connecticut’s authoritative opinion survey for a long time.

Last week  the news and opinion aggregation site, CT Capitol Report, entered the handicapping for this year’s “horse races” and immediately gave pundits more material to analyze and write about. We can all take heart that the polling is home grown from www.merrimanriver.com.  But do we need more info on the horse races or journalistic attention focused on issues and how candidates are responding to them?

I was among the CT residents phoned by the CT Capitol’s survey that called about the Governor’s race, which the poll ultimately found to be a “dead heat.”  This was a push-button poll wherein a recorded voice asked me a series of questions on my choice for governor and got the vitals on my political identity.  As I dutifully gave the answers of a liberal Democrat I wondered about the efficacy of a survey that did not involve a back and forth with another human being, just required whoever answered the phone to punch in answers if there was enough patience to stay on the line for five minutes or so.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza discusses the pros and cons of the CT Capitol Report survey methodology in this recent story from the Washington Post’s “The Fix”.

Cillizza suggests voters take CT Capitol Report’s and other automated polls with a grain of salt:

In a standard telephone poll, the interviewer may seek to add another layer of randomness by asking to speak for a specific person in a household, such as whoever most recently celebrated a birthday. Automated polls do not attempt to do that. Establishment pollsters argue that by stripping a level of randomness from the polling process, auto-dial pollsters must more heavily weight their samples to achieve demographic diversity — rendering the results almost meaningless.

The CT Capitol Report polling also told us that the 5th Congressional District is the most anti-Obama and trending Republican of any of CT’s five districts. Too bad towns like New Britain and Meriden will skew these results.


It’s kind of ironic that in the age of dying newspapers and diminished journalism voters–the online ones anyway — may be getting Too Much Information (TMI) that focuses less on the issues and how candidates will address them.


Sources:


 http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/parsing-the-polls/parsing-the-polls-of-auto-dial.html

http://www.ctcapitolreport.com/