For many people, one of the safest ways to vote during COVID-19 is to vote absentee. Unfortunately, Connecticut is one of only 16 states that does not allow no-excuse absentee voting.
Faced with the prospect of voters being forced to choose between protecting their health or exercising their right to vote, in July, the ACLU of Connecticut and ACLU Voting Rights Project together filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Connecticut on behalf of our clients, the Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches, the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, and an individual Connecticut resident whose age places her at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
A few weeks later, during the special legislative session, our advocacy team pushed legislators to make absentee voting an option for all eligible voters during the pandemic.
Together, our lawsuit and advocacy convinced the legislature to pass a law to allow every eligible voter to vote absentee because of COVID-19 for the November 3, 2020 election. Through this law, every registered voter was to receive an absentee ballot application from the state, every town was required to have at least one absentee ballot drop box, and voters could also submit their absentee ballots by mail. We immediately fast-tracked new, special edition Know Your Rights guides to educate voters about their rights to vote absentee in the November 3, 2020 election, and we called every town clerk in the state to create a guide for voters to be able to find their towns’ absentee ballot drop boxes.
The ACLU of Connecticut’s victory in securing this law was one of 27 ACLU wins in 20 states and Puerto Rico designed to safeguard the voting rights of millions of U.S. voters this November. Together, the locales where the ACLU made progress for voting rights are home to more than 154 million people and wield 247 Electoral College votes.
The steps that Connecticut made this year are not a permanent fix, however, as the special absentee voting law only applies to statewide elections held in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. No-excuse absentee voting can and should be standard for all elections in Connecticut, just as it is in many other states. Connecticut also remains one of only six states that does not allow some form of early voting (this puts our state in company with Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina). By making it easier and more convenient for more people to vote, absentee voting and early voting options for all eligible voters expand access to the ballot box and strengthens our democracy in the process.
The ACLU of Connecticut will continue working diligently to bring Connecticut into the 21st century by changing our election laws to include universal voter registration, early voting, and expanded voting absentee voting.
[This story is from our 2020 newsletter, which looks back on some of the key areas where we advanced civil rights and liberties and pushed back against threats, and ahead toward the unfinished work that remains in 2021. You can find the entire newsletter here.]