A key committee voted Wednesday for a bill that allows same-day voter registration, a controversial issue that for more than a decade has prompted sharp debates about potential voter fraud. The bill passed 11-4 on a largely party-line vote. Republicans charged that registering and then voting on the same day provides too many opportunities for last-minute fraud that might not be detected until after the election. One Republican joined with 10 Democrats to pass the measure. Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a Democrat and the committee co-chairwoman, spoke strongly in favor of the bill, saying it would boost voter turnout at a time when the state needs it. She said there was no evidence of voter fraud in Connecticut, adding that a statewide voter registration database would prevent voters from casting ballots by driving to two different towns on Election Day. “I do think that we take ballot integrity very seriously,” said Slossberg. “One of the great tools at our fingertips and at our registrars’ fingertips is our electronic database.”
Republicans sharply disagreed with Slossberg over fraud and offered amendments they said would help prevent it. Rep. John Hetherington, a New Canaan Republican, offered an unsuccessful amendment to ensure that photo identification is offered at the polling place at a time of rising identity theft. But Democrats countered that many senior citizens and members of minority groups do not have photo identification because they do not have a driver’s license.
“We’re looking for a valid federal government or state identification,” Hetherington told his colleagues. “Whenever an invalid vote is cast, it disenfranchises someone who cast a valid vote. If one of us behaves dishonestly, it impacts someone else. … An election goes to the cornerstone of democracy. If we don’t have honest elections, we cannot boast that we have a legitimate democracy.” Hetherington’s amendment failed on a party-line vote as Republicans supported the measure and Democrats opposed it.