More than just a cure for restrictive election laws
It can be difficult to vote, even in the “blue state” of Connecticut. Connecticut does not have early polls or unapologetic mail ballots. Most voters are required to vote in person on polling day. The only option to vote on a day other than polling day is to vote absent with an excuse of qualifying.
To vote as absentee, a Connecticut resident must complete a form, mail it to their city clerk who will then send out a postal ballot, which the voter will then need to mail back. Before the pandemic, the most efficient way to vote by mail was to go to the office of the registrar of electors. A Connecticut resident wishing to vote away cannot apply online.
Connecticut residents can register to vote online, but otherwise our voting systems have not caught up in 2021. Again this year, the Connecticut General Assembly will consider a bill with a provision revising existing laws so that registration systems can be advertised online, replacing newspaper advertisements.
the For the People Act of 2021 is a proposed federal bill that would facilitate voting and provide funding for technology upgrades. The bill requires states to conduct early voting and create an online postal ballot request process. In addition to improving voter access, the new bill also provides much needed public funding to modernize voting systems. The For the People Act of 2021, also known as HR 1 and S. 1, includes provisions allowing the federal government to give state subsidies to pay updates needed.
Grants would be given to states for “investments supporting electronic information, transfer, including electronic collection and transfer of signatures” and “updates to online or electronic voter registration systems already in operation. “. You might think the For the People Act is federal action designed to tackle restrictive election laws like the one just enacted in Georgia. This law is not only meant to protect voters from lawmakers in conservative states who hope to limit the turnout of likely liberal voters. The For the People Act will strengthen our democracy, even in the “blue state” of Connecticut.
In Connecticut, we have municipal, state, and federal government. The three levels of government embody the principle of federalism. Co-operative federalism, which means that the different levels of government work together, is most clearly seen in our elections. City officials oversee elections in Connecticut with some support and regulation from the state and federal government. Municipalities are responsible for complying with federal and state laws when administering elections and registering voters.
Each level of government depends on the municipal administration for elections and the maintenance of electoral lists. Connecticut’s 169 cities administer their own elections. Elections and the maintenance of voter registration are funded by municipal governments. The state pays for the state database used by each city, but other associated costs are paid by each city. Even the professional certification and development courses for registrars, offered by UConn, are paid for by local government dollars.
Connecticut needs to update its voter registration system because a better database would improve the efficiency of voter registration office workers statewide. The current website is slow and works on Internet Explorer, an outdated web browser. The Secretary of State announced his intention to upgrade Connecticut Electoral Infrastructure On April 21, the proposed spending will be to update and upgrade current technologies and systems, but will lack the funding to pay for expanded access to postal voting.
Voters must be able to securely request a postal vote online. Because the People Act of 2021 requires that states facilitate the request for postal ballots online and via an automated telephone system. This will save voters time and avoid the risk of loss of voting rights by lost mail. It will also reduce the volume of physical mail processing required by absentee voting.
The “big lie” told by former President Trump is just that, a lie. Election fraud is incredibly rare, elections are not stolen. Fraud is not a threat to our elections. Making it easier to vote will not delegitimize our elections, which are safe and secure. If anything, the For the People Act credits will fund programs, policies and technologies that will make our elections even more secure.
For the November 2020 election, all registered voters were able to vote by mail using the coronavirus pandemic as an acceptable excuse, and more than a third of the votes were cast this way. A record number of voters made their voices heard, with 79.7% of registered voters voting. More people participated in the electoral process when they were given the opportunity to easily vote for those absent. The popularity and education around absentee voting has also led to a rejection rate about half that of recent national elections.
The People’s Law provisions are federal policies that will help local and regional elections run more smoothly. Passing the For the People Act will have a positive effect on elections in Connecticut and the rest of the country. It will protect your right to vote and the rights of your neighbors. Critically important to a democracy, the For the People Act will strengthen your ability to make your voice heard in Connecticut.
Elizabeth Rousseau is a junior with a double major in economics, public policy and law at Trinity College. She is the Assistant Clerk of Electors for the City of West Hartford.
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