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Make A Reasonable Change To The Law



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To the Editor:

I feel that the absentee ballot application form should be changed to allow anyone voting in next November’s election to get an absentee ballot because of COVID-19. As the law stands now, you can get an absentee ballot if you are sick, but you cannot get one to try to avoid going into a polling place where numbers of people will congregate during the coronavirus pandemic. It is great that there are fewer new cases, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer deaths each day in the state. But we do not know what is going to happen when people are back at work, in school, and shopping-dining-partying-as-usual next fall. We also do not know if other viral infections could trigger a resurgence of the coronavirus. The pandemic is not over in the rest of the country or the rest of the world.

It seems like changing the application should be straightforward. But there are two issues. Some candidates dislike allowing anyone who wants to vote by absentee ballot because they fear their chances of getting elected might be harmed. And they have one legal issue to work with. The Constitution of the State of Connecticut specifies a few reasons a voter can get an absentee ballot and one of them is if the voter is unable to appear at the polling place because of sickness. The constitution authorizes the state legislature to write an absentee ballot law, but it does not compel them to exercise that authority to the fullest, or even at all. The statute that the legislature wrote some years ago currently reads that anyone can get an absentee ballot because of his or her illness (along with five other reasons). I contend that the law should be changed for next November and I believe that the constitution can be interpreted in a way to allow any voter to be able to get an absentee ballot because of a highly infectious disease.

I feel that such a change could withstand a court challenge because the constitution (of the state) can be reasonably interpreted to allow the legislature to authorize voting by absentee ballot due to a sickness like COVID-19. And there is another issue. Someone with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. So a voter could have an infection that has been proven to be potentially dangerous and not feel that he or she has a legal right to vote by absentee ballot, even though he or she is actually sick. The law, as it currently stands, can lead to an absurd situation where it does not meet the standard it itself purports to meet while compelling a sick voter to vote in person.

The Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut is hearing three cases on these issues already and I hope that these changes to the law will be seen as reasonable and within the scope of the constitution.

Jim Bromer

275 Silver Hill Road, Easton July 6, 2020

Comments are open. Be civil.
1 comment
  1. saxon9075 says:

    Sir, I agree in principle with your position but am concerned we are rushing into this. I am not sure (but I am not a lawyer) that the State Constitution allows for fear of a pandemic to be a reason not to appear in person. I don’t think we should rush into this and there are many issues to resolve. Legislate in haste, repent at leisure. One issue that was addressed at the Court and they refused to rule, saying voting rules and procedure was properly the province of the Legislature.

    To wit. A few years ago, an election north of Hartford resulted in a tie. One candidate refused to go with a coin toss (as was his right). Lo and behold an absentee ballot was found in a Clerks Office. the Clerk said they pulled the ballot because the person had died before election day and the Clerk said you had to be alive on election day to vote. This was litigated up to the State Supreme Court who said it was a matter for the Legislature and they should address it but in the interim it was up to the Registrar/Town Clerk. (The issue then became the identity of the caster of the ballot would be known and anonymity of the ballot is sacrosanct. They contacted the family and lo and behold the voter was not dead and said go ahead and open it, they had voted for neither and a new election was ordered.) To date the Legislature has not addressed it and whether to count it or not is up to each Clerk/Registrar.

    I voted absentee in the 2016 election yet my wife was told by the poll person I had been in bright and early and was very pleasant. My name was crossed off. According to the Registrar my absentee ballot would not have been counted.

    How long will they count ballots being returned. If one is lost in the mail and comes in at Christmastime will they count it as long as it is postmarked by 8 PM election day ?

    These are not insurmountable but to try and do this all in a one day special session is ridiculous. Especially as they are not sure what the rules for a Special Session are going to be.

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