As states across the country attempt to roll back voting rights and protections, Connecticut must lead the way in protecting the right to vote. But Connecticut has a lot of work to do – as the Center for Public Integrity recently observed, Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws outside the south. Communities of color in Connecticut regularly face long lines and other obstacles when voting. It is high time that we fixed these issues and ensure that voters of color, and indeed all voters, are safe from voter suppression and intimidation, and have a fair and fair chance. fair to elect the candidates of their choice.
Recently, the Connecticut Legislature held a public hearing on the Connecticut Voting Rights Act (Senate Bill 820 or the CTVRA), introduced by State Senator Matt Lesser, who, if passed, would make Connecticut a national leader in protecting the right to vote for communities of color, and indeed all voters. We have heard from many civil rights leaders, voters and advocates about the importance of CTVRA when it comes to eliminating racial discrimination in voting, by enshrining in law protections against voter suppression and diluting the votes, expanding the requirements for language assistance and taking strong action against voter intimidation. Connecticut is expected to build on the success of other states that have passed voting rights laws, such as California, Washington, Oregon and – most recently – Virginia, and emulate current efforts to pass a bill. similar law in New York, enacting the CTVRA.
But CTVRA is just the start. Right now, there are thousands of Connecticut residents who are completely barred from voting. That’s because Connecticut is the only state in the northeast that denies people the right to vote on parole. People of color make up about a third of Connecticut’s population, while making up an astonishing 72% of our incarcerated population. Simply put, those on parole are back in their communities and deserve to be heard. Senate Bill n ° 5 would remedy this grave injustice, while registering hundreds of thousands of new voters by implementing automatic voter registration.
While these bills are all critical first steps, there is still work to be done. It’s time to finally get Connecticut in line with the 29 states across the country that offer no-excuse absentee ballot and the 44 states that allow early voting. We can accomplish this session by passing HJ 58 and HJ 59 – constitutional amendments that will allow voters to decide whether to bring absent ballot without excuse and early voting to Connecticut.
These are common sense reforms that have proven to increase voter turnout and access. No Connecticut resident should have to worry about taking time off work, missing family obligations, or standing in line for hours to exercise one of their most basic rights. Forcing residents to make this choice is an act of depriving their voting rights in itself. Last year, Connecticut temporarily extended absent ballot voting, and the results speak for themselves. Connecticut has had its most harmonious election in years, with near-record voter turnout despite a global pandemic. But if Connecticut fails to make these temporary reforms permanent this session, voters will again lose those rights.
As 28 states across the country scramble to restrict voter access right now, Connecticut faces a choice: do we advance voting rights and racial justice, or do we fail to act. and to go back?
The momentum is in our favor, and these efforts in Connecticut come amid a national conversation about voting rights and the need to reinstate the preclearance provision in the voting rights law, to protect against the State voter suppression laws that negatively affect racial minorities’ access to the vote. , as well as the need to provide opportunities for expanding voter registration, early voting and absentee voting, as outlined in HR 1, the law for the people, and HR 4, on John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act. The latest poll shows Connecticut voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly backing increasing voter access – with 79% of voters in favor of early voting and absentee voting without excuse, 77% in favor of l automatic voter registration and 66% in favor of restoring voting rights for those on parole, including the majority of Democrats and Republicans.
Depriving voters of the right to vote will always be a painful part of our history, but Connecticut has an opportunity this legislative session to ensure that it is no longer a part of our future.
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