Ray Hackett: Let citizens decide issue of early voting

Ray Hackett, Norwich Bulletin weighs in on early voting <read>

Last week, there were borough elections held in the state. Turnout for those was often just as bad or worse — mostly a result of no contests on the ballots. At least in Norwich, there was a contest between two candidates.

But is poor turnout at the polls sufficient enough reason to change the rules? And would allowing voters  to vote when it’s convenient for them actually result in greater participation?
The Connecticut Town Clerks Association has expressed its opposition to the idea of early voting, claiming it hasn’t been studied sufficiently to ensure voter fraud will not run rampant. I certainly appreciate the concern about fraud, but I find that argument weak. Many states allow early voting, and pictures of thousands of voters in long lines waiting for the opportunity to cast a ballot in last year’s presidential election were seen in newspapers and on television.

Surely Connecticut’s election officials are capable of setting up a system that would provide the necessary safeguards to prevent voter fraud — just like election officials in all those other states have.

Mr. Hacket’s article is balanced, yet there are more details to consider.  CTVotersCount took a position as “Conditionally Against” early voting in any form during our testimony at the Legislature earlier this year:

Early Voting, Mail-In Voting, and Unlimited/No Excuse Absentee Voting

– Conditionally Against*: Significant numbers of absentee voters are disenfranchised in every election by rejection of their ballots – usually for good reason, but they are disenfranchised and their intentions are not realized.  These methods in general have security and secrecy challenges, invite fraud, error, and disenfranchisement.  We also note in these tough economic times that early voting can be a significant expense, especially in New England with town administered voting.

(*) When we say we are “Conditionally Against” a proposition, we mean that nobody has proposed a realistic safe way to accomplish the proposition. We remain open to the possibility that a means may be found that would pass the scrutiny of the majority of computer scientists, security experts, election officials, and voting integrity advocates.

We are not as confident as Mr. Hackett is that early voting in Connecticut could be done as easily as in other states out west.  Most states manage elections by county with full time civil service election officials — they do early voting in a few polling places in each county — Connecticut manages elections by two elected registrars, often part-time,  in each of 169 towns, making early voting much more of a challenge and potential expense.  Changing this structure to allow early voting centers would be quite a change, requiring in our opinion, a constitutional amendment of much greater scope than the one currently under consideration.

We are open to the possibility that early voting could work in Connecticut, however, we are skeptical that the state, towns, and citizens would be willing to pay for the added costs of early voting in polling places.  We will remain conditionally opposed unless and until a plan is presented which provides security accompanied by an honest cost assessment.   If the citizens are to decide, they deserve a complete plan describing how it will be accomplished and what it would cost.

We are also skeptical of no excuse absentee voting  which has questionable security, privacy, and when so many absentee ballots are discarded due to errors on the part of voters, effectively disenfranchising them.


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