Committee Approves 39 Bills In Last Meeting

The Government Administration and Elections Committee met for the last time before its deadline to consider and approve 39 bills. After an hour long Democratic caucus they discussed the bills for about three hours. <agenda> In honor of the late Roger Ebert we provide graphic summaries of our comments.

S.B. 4 Early Voting This would mandate early voting for eight days before each state (even year) election. We are not against early voting, yet this bill needs more details to protect voters and guide officials, especially in the areas of ballot security, registration, and check-in coordination. It also might be unconstitutional. It will be quite costly, especially for small towns. It also includes an unrelated provision attempting to force the Secretary of the State and Registrars to limit lines to 15 minutes at most.

S.B. 5 Campaign Finance Disclosure This bill would increase disclosure requirements for independent campaign spending, including listing top donors in advertisements. Ironically for disclosure, a similar bill last was written behind closed doors, with no opportunity for testimony, and later a “rat” provision for email and fax military voting was added. We are half-way to a better process this year, and hopefully to passage of a clean bill for cleaner campaigns.

S.B 1146 Ending Cross Endorsements From the discussion almost no member of the GAE was in favor of the bill. It seems only Senate President, Senator Williams is in favor. Several members echoed the public testimony all but uniformly against the bill. They appreciated the cross endorsements they have received, said the bill was a “solution in search of a problem”, noted cross endorsements might decrease the spoiler effect and enliven democracy. Several said maybe there was a way to reduce “voter confusion”. Our take is that there is no voter confusion, but registrar confusion and resistance to the straight-forward, yet bothersome allocation of dual votes for the same candidates to parties. Most confusing to the public, is the many members who voted for the bill after speaking against it.

S.B. 777 Allowing Voters To Be Checked-in Electronically We favor electronic check-in. It is not proven to speed up lines, it might slow them down a bit, requiring more pollworkers. But done well it can make check-in more accurate and updating who voted faster and more accurate. With connectivity it could cut down calls to the registrars office for voters who have moved, and let voters check-in in any line. We testified against the original bill because it set no standards for electronic check-in equipment and processes. UPDATED. Based on reviewing the approved bill, not yet online, we are pleased that the Committee took our advice and required approval of check-in equipment by the Secretary of the State.

S.B. 778 Consolidation of Polling Places for Primaries We are all for allowing for the consolidation of polling places for primaries. Many towns do this already for referendums. The Governor vetoed this bill last year because he said it might be confusing to voters and the provision for secret objection by candidates. We agree with the Governor on the second point, we do not see how such objections would actually remain secret. We do not know if we would veto it just for that, but would much rather see only an-on-the-record public objection.

H.B. 5600 Making Rulings, Instructions, and Opinions Issued by The Secretary of the State Enforceable We asked for something similar several years ago. We see this bill is unchanged from the original draft. We would like it to include regulations which are not currently agreed to be enforceable. We would like it to require a specific posting method for all such items and require them to cite this law. We like the provision that voter ID requirements be posted in all polling places. Overall we would be pleased to seethis become law.

S.B. 729 Pilot Program for Early Voting in Municipal Elections. Allows up to nine towns of varying sizes to apply to pilot early voting, this November. We are all for pilot programs. We are concerned that this on lacks the same security and check-in requirements of S.B. 4 discussed earlier. It requires a report by the Secretary of the State by last January, (hopefully to be corrected) . We wish that report were specifically required to cover costs, security, and check-in coordination issues. We also wonder how many towns, especially small towns will be willing to pay for a pilot. We are also concerned that it will simply result in a feel-good approval of the idea, especially if New Haven pilots in the first open mayoral race in years, almost guaranteed to increase turnout. Overall we hope some valuable lessons will be learned, but have concerns with constitutionality.

H.B 6111 Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act  We testified against this bill. It was a sketchy, blank-check, with many potential provisions that required scrutiny for coordination with existing law, especially for primaries, special elections, and referendums. Maybe the GAE listened to us. The resulting bill will help military and overseas voters, but only apply to elections. We cannot be sure of all the details – registrars would know more if there were any conflicting provisions. It calls for a bit of work on the part of the Secretary of the State, but is missing deadlines for those requirements – that can be good or bad in this case. We are pleased to be able to support this bill which will help military and overseas voters.

S.B. 283 Email and Fax Military Voting. We remain opposed to all forms of Internet voting: online, fax, or email. This is the same concept stuck in the campaign finance bill last year, without hearings. The same bill vetoed by Governor Malloy because email and fax voting is risky and unconstitutional. We cannot figure out the GAE this year, passing this bill and passing earlier S.B. 647 which mandates for a report from the Secretary of the State due next January  on how email and fax voting  could be accomplished and how the law would need to change. One representative keeps calling this a “Veterans Bill”. This veteran does not get how it helps anyone to risk votes and destroy the secret vote guaranteed by the Connecticut Constitution.


H.B 5903 Resolving Tie Votes A sensible minor change requiring that after tie votes, only the tied candidates should be on the ballot for the run-off election.


H.J. 3 Resolution To Congress RE: Protecting Free Speech Rights of Persons  Against the assault of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.


So much for one day. In the next few days, I will go back and do the same for the bills approved earlier in the session. Given past practices, many of these bills may change dramatically going forward and be consolidated together or into other bills, so our assessments may change.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.