By DAVE COLLINS
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut residents are being asked to give state officials new authority to make major changes to how, when and where citizens can vote, which could open the door to all voting by mail, online voting, multiple voting days at the polls and expanded use of absentee ballots.
The state’s only ballot question for the Nov. 4 election asks voters whether the Connecticut constitution should be amended to remove several election restrictions that officials say prevent early voting measures. Thirty-three states offer some form of early voting, and in three states all voting is done by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“I think the time has come, because people are seeing it going on in other states,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat who helped lead the effort to get the question on the ballot. “I think this is something people want. They see the flexibility.”
Merrill and other supporters of the constitutional amendment said voting “yes” won’t change how elections are conducted. If approved, the amendment would allow the legislature and governor to change the system.
The measure however has opponents, including many Republicans who say it would give too much power to the legislature and governor _ thereby allowing a bare majority of lawmakers to approve massive changes to how citizens vote.
“Anytime there’s a proposal to change how and when we vote, I would want it to go before the people,” said state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Fairfield Republican who voted against putting the question on the ballot.
The legislature in 2012 approved putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot, but not by the required three-quarters majority. The constitution allowed lawmakers to approve it again last year without a 75 percent majority.
The amendment would eliminate a constitutional requirement that citizens cast their votes on Election Day, unless they are eligible for absentee ballots. The proposal also would eliminate all restrictions on absentee ballots, which now are limited to people who will be out of town, are sick, have a physical disability or can’t vote on Election Day because of their religion.
Without those requirements, the legislature and governor could approve “no-excuse” absentee balloting, multiple voting days at the polls, all voting by mail and online voting. Supporters say such measures could improve voter turnout.
“Most of the people in the United States have those opportunities and we don’t,” said Alison Rivard, vice president of public issues for the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, which supports the proposal. “Our current system is inefficient, and some say it’s discriminatory to people who work long hours, who commute, who lack cars, who lack access to public transportation.”