Connecticut voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment in 2024 that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Connecticut would join 35 other states that allow this method of voting. No-excuse absentee voting is where any voter may request a mail-in ballot. Generally, a voter must first submit an application in order to receive a ballot. The voter may then return the completed ballot by mail or by using a designated deposit site.
Currently, Connecticut voters are eligible to vote absentee in an election if they cannot make it to the polls on election day for one of the following reasons:
*Active military service;
*Absence from town of residence during voting hours;
*Illness or physical disability;
*Religious beliefs precluding secular activity on election day; or
*Performance of duties as an election official at a different polling place during voting hours.
An absentee ballot must be returned either in person by the close of business the day before the election or by mail. If returned by mail, the ballot must be received by the close of polls on election day.
The Connecticut Constitution provides two paths for the legislature to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot, either through a 75% vote in each chamber of the legislature during one legislative session or a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each chamber of the legislature during two legislative sessions.
This amendment was referred over two legislative sessions and was first introduced as House Joint Resolution 58 on Feb. 17, 2021. On May 11, 2021, the House passed HJR 58 with a vote of 104-44, with three members absent or not voting. On June 3, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 58 with a vote of 27-9. The amendment was approved mostly along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed with twelve Republican legislators joining Democrats in approving the amendment during the 2021 legislative session.
On May 10, 2023, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved the amendment, known as HJR 1 this session, in a vote of 113-38. On May 30, 2023, the state Senate approved the measure in a vote of 26-8. Of the 53 House Republicans, 16 joined Democrats in voting in favor of the amendment. Of the 12 Senate Republicans, three voted in favor of the amendment, including Sen. Tony Hwang. Hwang said, “As we move forward, I wish we had more collaboration of ideas, ideas that make our voting process better, more inclusive, more transparent, more engaged.”
Democratic State Sen. Mae Flexer said, “It would be the next step in the process in allowing all voters in the state of Connecticut to cast a vote via absentee ballot, regardless of the reason.”
State Sen. Rob Sampson (R), who voted against the amendment, said, “We have to be able to trust those votes without question. I have some concerns about trying to move our voting process away from the way it’s been traditionally done where people vote on one specific day in person. In the last election, we saw all campaigns across this state mailing ballot applications like crazy to people, and also sending out companion mail to say, ‘Yes, you can check the box for sickness. You can vote by absentee.’ It was a mess.”
As of 2023, 35 states and Washington, D.C. allowed no-excuse absentee voting, and 15 states required an excuse to vote absentee.