Changes to Extended Mail-in Voting, Clear House Outdoor Dining – NBC Connecticut

Easier mail-in voting and an alfresco dining option at restaurants — two public health ideas adopted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — are set to be extended after allowing the House of Representatives to the state on Wednesday.

The House voted 126 to 16 in favor of a bill that includes the broad term ‘disease’ as a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot, aligning state law with existing language in Connecticut’s constitution. . The “illness” excuse would apply to the health of the individual voter or the health of someone else, such as a sick relative.

Advocates for seniors and other at-risk groups have voiced support for such a move, saying many residents remain concerned about themselves or family members contracting COVID-19 and want to ensure that they have the possibility of voting by post. Previous provisions that specifically allowed COVID-19 to be a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot have expired.

“State statutes are more restrictive than the constitution and these changes will allow for an increase in voter voting options – options that voters have demonstrated in recent elections that they want to be able to exercise,” he said. said John Erlingheuser, associate state director for advocacy and outreach at Connecticut‘s AARP, in recent testimony before the Committee on Government Administration and Elections.

Meanwhile, the House also voted 121 to 21 in favor of another bill that extends a law that broadly allows outdoor dining and retail to continue through April 30, 2023. It is due to expire on March 31.

“When we started this process, we were responding to something that was unknown, which was a challenge for businesses across the state, especially our restaurant industry, which has been hit very hard,” the rep said. Joe Zullo, R-East Haven.

“We’re here and we’re in a little bit different place,” Zullo said. “We’re not quite in round 9, but maybe we’re just past round 7 and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Businesses are opening up. Our economy is starting to recover, but we still have struggling restaurants. »

Some Republicans expressed concerns about both bills during Wednesday’s debate. Several said they feared municipal control over a zoning issue could be overridden by state law. Others questioned the need for changes to state law regarding mail-in ballots.

“It’s in my mind a backdoor to get into mail-in voting without an apology,” said Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott. “It opens the door to harvesting ballots because everyone is eligible to vote by mail due to illness.”

In a unanimous opinion issued in February 2021, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that the term “illness” is not limited to the illness of an individual voter. The court also determined that it included specific illnesses, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

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