In a partisan committee vote Monday night, a bill was approved that would shine light on so-called dark money, the anonymous political contributions usually bundled by out-of-state interests to influence statewide and legislative elections. Republicans think the majority should start campaign finance reforms in their own caucus, where a proliferation of individual PACs spread money throughout the recent state-election process. The Government Administration & Elections Committee, with a one-vote Democratic majority, pushed through legislation that would require corporations to disclose the votes of their boards of directors when they make political contributions and limit so-called independent expenditures to $70,000 a year. The bill passed 9-8, during the committee’s last meeting before its deadline. The legislation, which passed with no discussion after five-and-a-half hours of closed door caucusing by Republicans and Democrats, heads to the House.
Articles about voting issues in Connecticut.
Legislators debated Monday whether Connecticut should ease restrictions on absentee ballots and also join 37 other states by allowing early voting. Early voting is common around the country but has never become law in the Land of Steady Habits. To ease the restrictions, lawmakers are proposing two separate constitutional amendments for “no excuse” absentee ballots and early voting. In November 2014, Connecticut voters rejected a constitutional amendment on absentee ballots that asked them in a one-sentence question if the Constitution should be changed.
A push to bring early voting to Connecticut — and send long lines at many polling locations the way of mechanical voting machines — is regaining momentum. State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, this week introduced a bill, the first of the upcoming legislative session, to amend the state constitution to allow for early voting. A similar measure was defeated by voters in 2014 during a public referendum, despite support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s top election official, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who are both Democrats. Tong said it’s high time that Connecticut join 37 other states that allow anyone to cast their ballots before the election, not just those who meet the guidelines for obtaining an absentee ballot. The initiative comes after a record 1.7 million ballots were cast statewide in the November election, with long lines observed in many municipalities such as Bridgeport, Stamford, Fairfield, Milford, Norwalk and Danbury.
The statewide debut of an election results website was marked by growing pains, including the deletion of tallies from Tuesday’s watershed presidential contest that forced the system to be temporarily shut down. This was the first time all 169 Connecticut municipalities were required to use the system, which cost the state between $350,000 and $450,000 as part of a broader technology upgrade. Participation had been voluntary for the presidential primary in April, and for the August primaries. From Bridgeport to Danbury to Greenwich, local registrars of voters reported multiple kinks in the system, from lost data to network crashes, and then being unable to log back in to complete their work. The registrars say that having a centralized website is more efficient than the past practice of faxing in the results to the state and waiting up to two days for the information to be posted. But the execution, they say, was a mess.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced that Connecticut will have a new accessible ballot marking system at polling places statewide on Election Day, Nov. 8 that is designed to improve the voting experience for people with disabilities. “We know that people with disabilities are some of Connecticut’s most active and engaged citizens and that they will be a force in this year’s presidential election. We want to make sure that when they turn out to vote this November, they have the most high-tech services available,” Merrill said. The new stand-alone, tablet-based system requires no telephone or internet service and is intended to be adaptable to a variety of assistive technologies. The tablet system is a ballot-marking device that replaces the previous phone-fax technology. The previous system required poll workers to use a designated telephone with a secure, pre-registered number to enter the system. Voters were then given a telephone handset after the calls were answered by a computer system that provided an audio ballot. Once the call ended, the ballot was faxed to the polling place.
Voters with disabilities will no longer, in the words of Secretary of State Denise Merrill, be forced to use “the clunky old system” when voting on Nov. 8. On Monday, Merrill and advocates for the disabled showed off the state’s new $1.5 million, state-of-the-art computerized system that will allow Connecticut’s disabled voters to first vote, and then print their ballots. “I am very excited about this,’’ Merrill said. “It is a real improvement over our old system. The beauty of it is people with disabilities will be able to vote just like everyone else.’’ The new stand-alone, tablet-based system requires no telephone or internet service and is intended to be adaptable to a variety of assistive technologies. The tablet system is a ballot-marking device that replaces the previous phone-fax technology. The previous system required poll workers to use a designated telephone with a secure, pre-registered number. Voters were then given a telephone handset after the calls were answered by a computer system that provided an audio ballot. Once the call ended, the ballot was faxed to the polling place.
Connecticut registered nearly 700 new voters Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of a “motor voter” system established at the Department of Motor Vehicles under last week’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. And the DMV wasn’t even open Monday, just AAA. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said any customer doing business at the DMV or at AAA offices that serve as DMV branches is now automatically prompted to register to vote or update their voting address, a long-overdue step complying with a U.S. civil rights law.
The state and the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement to resolve claims that Connecticut’s method of registering voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles was not in compliance with federal law. Under a program beginning next week, applications for driver’s licenses and identification cards will effectively serve as voter registration applications unless a customer specifically opts out. And when a customer changes the address on file at the DMV, that information will be reflected on the voter rolls unless they make a different request. “The motor voter provision of the [National Voter Registration Act of 1993] critically supports and enhances our citizens’ access to the democratic process,” U.S. attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a statement. “Compliance with those requirements plays an important role in ensuring that all Conneticut citizens can more easily exercise their right to vote.”
Republican legislators Wednesday amplified their claims that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill bypassed the General Assembly by entering an agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles for a “streamlined motor voter system” to automatically register citizens to vote when they go to the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license. At a press conference in the Legislative Office Building, Senate GOP Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said that after Merrill failed to get the legislature this year to approve a bill to establish the automatic motor voter registration system, she “went behind the backs” of lawmakers to negotiate a “memorandum of understanding” to implement the new system administratively. Merrill and the DMV defended the agreement later Wednesday. Under the new “automatic motor voter system,” DMV customers would be registered to vote starting in 2018 unless they decline by choosing to opt out. Under the current motor voter program that’s existed for two decades, DMV customers are registered to vote only if they choose that option.
Connecticut: DMV, Merrill Agree On Streamlined, ‘Automatic’ Motor Voter Registration System | Hartford Courant
The Department of Motor Vehicles and secretary of the state have worked out previous differences and signed an agreement to implement a “streamlined motor voter system” that will automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they go to DMV for a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The Department of Motor Vehicles and secretary of the state have worked out previous differences and signed an agreement to implement a “streamlined motor voter system” that will automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they go to DMV for a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The “memorandum of agreement,” signed Monday by DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra and Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone, says the new system, under which the DMV customer would be registered to vote unless he or she specifically declines by choosing to opt out, would begin operating by August 2018. Under the current program, the DMV customer is registered to vote only if he or she actively chooses that option.