The right to vote is precious, and we must make our democracy stronger by protecting and strengthening access to the ballot box.
The Connecticut Voting Rights Act (CT VRA)
What is The Connecticut Voting Rights Act (CT VRA)?
What is this bill?
This bill would help fight discrimination against voters of color and help protect the right to vote.
The Connecticut Voting Rights Act, or CT VRA, will help Connecticut fight discrimination against voters of color and help Connecticut become a national leader in protecting the right to vote. As voters across the country face the greatest assaults on voting rights since Jim Crow, it is essential to cement robust voting rights protections into state law. If passed, the CTVRA would be one of the most comprehensive state voting rights acts in the nation.
What would we like from this bill?
The key items that would make voting more accessible to all Connecticut residents.
- Launch a “preclearance” program, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act, that puts the burden on local governments with records of discrimination to prove that certain changes to elections procedures do not harm voters of color and other protected groups before those changes can go into effect.
- Expand and modernize language assistance for voters with limited English proficiency to protect more people in Connecticut beyond the 10 towns currently covered by the federal Voting Rights Act.
- Expand voter intimidation protections, prohibit voter deception and obstruction, and allow people who experience voter intimidation or obstruction to take action in civil court or SEEC (the State Elections Enforcement Commission).
- Create a central public hub for election data and demographic information that will empower officials and community members to ensure accessible elections, implement best practices in election administration, and investigate potential infringement upon the right to vote.
Why do we support it?
The right to vote is precious. Increasing access to the ballot box makes our democracy stronger.
The right to vote is precious, and we must make our democracy stronger by protecting and strengthening access to the ballot box. All Connecticut voters should have fair and equal access to the ballot box, and that’s especially important in a state like Connecticut with a history of particularly preventing Black and Puerto Rican voters from voting. While some people might think of the federal Voting Rights Act as being directed at states in the South, its protections apply to all 50 states, including Connecticut. And while some people may think of racist voter suppression as being a problem for other places, Connecticut has a long and shameful history of disenfranchising voters of color, particularly Black and Puerto Rican voters. Far from being immune from racist, white supremacist attempts to restrict voting rights, Connecticut has sometimes been the genesis of Jim Crow policies.
How can I support the CTVRA?
Interested in supporting this bill? Learn how here!
There will be two opportunities to testify:
- On February 16, after the governor submits his proposed budget, General Government Subcommittee B will meet to discuss funding for bills like the CT VRA that come through the General Government B subcommittee. There will be no specific CT VRA bill raised at this time, but there will be opportunity to submit testimony generally in support of funding the CT VRA.
- In early March, the Government and Elections Committee will hold a hearing on the CT VRA. This will be an opportunity to submit legislative testimony in support of the CT VRA as a whole.
- For both hearings, you can testify in person, virtually via zoom, or with written testimony only. Stay tuned for more information from us on how to testify on this bill.
Need more evidence to support the CT VRA? Look no further.
- Despite Connecticut’s progressive reputation, there are still discriminatory barriers to equal participation in our democracy for voters of color and for people whose first language is not English.
- Under the federal Voting Rights Act, 10 Connecticut towns are required to have language assistance, but there are voters in other places in our state who also need translation. We can do more to improve language access in other communities.
- Over 275,000 Connecticut residents have limited English proficiency, and this includes both immigrants and indigenous people.
- Connecticut’s history shows that we need to proactively prevent discrimination against voters of color. From its early days, Connecticut has been the least expansive for voting rights for Black people of all the New England states, amending the state constitution to explicitly limit the franchise to white people in 1818 when other neighboring states allowed Black men to vote without significant restriction.
- Connecticut was the first state to enact a literacy test and was one of only 12 states using a literacy test into the 1950s. Connecticut’s literacy test remained on the books until the federal Voting Rights Act finally banned them nationwide. In August 1965, the State Attorney General issued an opinion clarifying that the federal Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on literacy tests took precedence over the state law that allowed them.
- Right now, Connecticut law only deals with voter intimidation and obstruction in criminal court – this depends on policing and prosecution. There is no way for someone to sue in Connecticut civil court if they are intimidated or obstructed from voting, and there is no way for them to receive what’s known as “damages” – monetary compensation for the harm they experienced. The Connecticut Voting Rights Act would create a way for people to also take legal action outside of criminal court.
Testimony, Letters, and Other Resources
Here's what we and others are saying about the CT Voting Rights Act.
Read the ACLU of Connecticut's testimony supporting the CT Voting Rights Act.
To make inclusive early voting happen, legislators will need to fully fund it. Read the ACLU of Connecticut's Appropriations Committee testimony about funding for early voting.
We're proudly in solidarity with more than 50 organizations in supporting the CT VRA. Hear more from our friends about why we're pushing together for this important civil rights bill, or watch our coalition's press conference.
Get even more facts from the Legal Defense Fund.