Despite constitutional concerns, lawmakers advanced a bill Monday that establishes a pilot program for municipalities to test early voting in this year’s town elections. Over the past few years, the legislature has jumped through considerable hoops in an effort to broaden its authority over the state’s voting system. That’s because the state constitution is unusually specific when it comes to the administration of statewide and federal elections. For the second consecutive year, lawmakers are mulling a constitutional amendment that could give them more leeway to enact policies concerning no-excuse absentee ballots and early voting.
The bill that the Planning and Development Committee passed on a 12-6 vote Monday would allow an early voting test run in a handful of municipalities during their town elections scheduled for November of this year.
Proponents of the bill argue it does not run afoul of the state constitution, which has little to say with regard to town elections.
But opponents point to an informal opinion issued by then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2009. The Government Administration and Elections Committee had asked that year for an opinion regarding whether lawmakers would need to amend the constitution to enact no-excuse absentee voting or early voting. Blumenthal responded in the affirmative.
“We conclude that an amendment to the state constitution would be required to permit no-excuse early voting in Connecticut,” he said.
In the memo, Blumenthal supports the conclusion and cites court rulings concerning statewide elections, but he did not specifically mention municipal elections.