Editorial: CT marks a win for easier voting

A League of Women Voters sign encourages participation in Tuesday's election outside the District 2 polling station at Town Hall in Greenwich, Conn. Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

A League of Women Voters sign encourages participation in Tuesday's election outside the District 2 polling station at Town Hall in Greenwich, Conn. Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

As Connecticut moves toward a future that includes early voting, it’s important to remember this is not new territory. Instead, Connecticut has been nearly alone in prohibiting early voting — it’s one of only four states nationally that has no provision for voting before Election Day other than through restrictive absentee ballots.

Thanks to an Election Day referendum that passed with 59 percent of the vote, an amendment to the state constitution can move forward. It’s been a long struggle to reach this point, but advocates can take pride in knowing they cleared significant hurdles to finally bring the state in line with much of the rest of the country. But the work isn’t over yet.

It’s now up to state lawmakers to work out the specifics. That’s a process that must happen out in the open, like the crafting of any state law, and must keep competing interests in mind. There are a number of factors to consider.

Early voting is not the same as filling out an absentee ballot. In most states, it involves going to a polling place just like you would on Election Day and filling in ovals on a ballot. The General Assembly will have to decide how that will work, and many towns will have objections.

For instance, in some towns schools are closed on Election Day because they serve as polling places. In the event of early voting, a new system will need to be worked out to ensure schools aren’t closed for multiple days to make room for voters. There are many such obstacles that will have to be overcome.

In some states, all voting is done through the mail. It hasn’t led to a spike in fraud, and voters are generally supportive of the ease and convenience such an option provides. Exactly what form early voting will take in this state remains to be seen.

One concern raised by opponents was expense. Accounting for early voting will require more people to run polling places, more people to handle ballots and a general increase in the voting apparatus. That’s true, and opponents took advantage of that fact to call early voting an “unfunded mandate.” But there is no price to put on democracy. Running elections is a worthy expense, and if it costs more to run better elections, that’s a good use of taxpayer dollars.

What’s most important is that Connecticut is taking steps to make voting easier. It is far too common in other states to see moves that make voting harder, that put up barriers, that limit access, that turn people away. That hasn’t been the case here.

It’s taken a long time to reach this point, but that’s because Election Day voting has been enshrined in our constitution, and it’s not easy to change that (nor should it be). But the move toward expanding access to the ballot has been consistent, and it will be to the benefit of all Connecticut to see voting made easier and more convenient.

Not everyone might be happy with the winners in Tuesday’s elections. But everyone benefits when voting is open to more people.