Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) on Friday issued an opinion regarding a new statute that expands absentee voting, emphasizing that voters need not themselves be sick or away all day to vote by mail. 

Merrill said she issued the interpretation to “more closely conform” the law, which Governor Ned Lamont (D) signed on April 8, to Article Six, Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution which states, “In all elections of officers of the state, or members of the General Assembly, the votes of the electors shall be by ballot.” 

While the recently enacted legislation does not permit no-excuse absentee voting, it broadens the categories of those previously considered eligible to vote by mail. Voters used to need to attest that they would be absent from their precinct “during all hours of voting” or that they themselves had an illness or physical disability that would make it impossible or inadvisable for them to come to the polls. 

Under the bill Lamont signed and that passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support — albeit with some dissenting Republican votes — residents could vote by mail if they were caring for or living with someone who was ill or disabled, or even if they were merely concerned about catching a contagious disease. 

“No Connecticut voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” Merrill said in a statement. “These changes are consistent with Connecticut’s constitution and will allow more people to be eligible to cast an absentee ballot when they feel they are unable to vote in person in their polling place.”

Voters may also vote by mail if they anticipate they will have difficulty getting to the polls because of out-of-town obligations. (Many Connecticut residents work in New York City and would have little time in their hometowns during Election Day.)

Merrill partly based her advisory opinion on a unanimous 2020 state Supreme Court ruling which found that an individual voter ultimately must determine whether he or she is able to get to his or her polling place on Election Day. In that decision, the court ruled that those who had concerns about contracting COVID-19 were eligible to vote via absentee ballot. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Connecticut Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Denise Merrill” by Maryland GovPics. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “Poll Workers” by OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. CC BY-SA 2.0.