Connecticut elected a Democratic governor this year, but Tuesday was a bittersweet night for many state Democrats as Question 1, also known as the Early Voting Amendment, failed at the polls.
The amendment, which garnered only 47.5 percent of the vote, would have allowed the General Assembly to expand access to absentee ballots and eliminate most restrictions on early voting in the state. Connecticut is currently one of only 13 states not to allow any form of early voting, whether by mail or in person.
Throughout the country, early voting has often proved a partisan issue. Democrats tend to gain from early voting, as demographics more likely to lean Democratic are typically the beneficiaries of early voting.
The amendment’s failure in the Nutmeg State did not come as a complete shock to many Connecticut residents and Yale students. Mila Rostain ’17, a member of the Yale College Democrats who had been involved with the push for the amendment, said she was not surprised by its defeat.
“The people whom it helps are exactly the people who don’t come out in the midterm elections,” Mila said.
The amendment would largely aid ethnic minorities and those with low incomes, for whom voting is typically more difficult, she said, but those groups tend not to vote en masse in midterm elections.
Jacob Wasserman ’16, the Dems’ Legislative Coordinator, concurred. He said the amendment will likely do better in a presidential election year, when turnout for Democrats is typically higher than in midterm years. He added that he expects to see the amendment on the ballot again.
Not all agreed with that reasoning. The reasons for the amendment’s defeat were twofold, according to Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University.
He identified the unclear language of the amendment as one of the main factors in its defeat.
“The ambiguity of the amendment lends itself to some people pulling back because they didn’t know what it meant,” he said.
Vincent Mauro, the New Haven town chair of the Democratic Party, echoed that sentiment. He said that the amendment’s ambiguity confused many voters — a phenomenon that Rose, Wasserman and Rostain also noted.
Mauro and Rose added that the amendment’s placement at the end of the ballot could have also contributed to its defeat. Fewer people ultimately voted on the amendment than voted for the two gubernatorial candidates. Rose added that Connecticut already has online voter registration and same-day registration, and some Connecticut residents saw the amendment as going too far.
Despite these concerns, Mauro said that the amendment is critical to ensure that all people had an opportunity to cast their votes, dismissing claims that the Democrats intended to increase their electoral chances.
“I don’t know if it’s great for the Democrats per se,” Mauro said. “But giving people the opportunity to cast their vote is probably the most important thing we can do.”
He said that the amendment’s failure was overall “extremely disappointing,” underscoring the length of its journey to the ballot. Two different iterations of the General Assembly were needed to approve the amendment’s appearance on the ballot.
Wasserman remained optimistic about the future of electoral reform in Connecticut. He added that early voting is not the only way to improve the voting process in Connecticut — fixing the problems with same-day registration would also help. Moreover, he said that the re-election of Malloy bodes well for the future.
“Gov. Malloy pushed for Question 1,” he said, “and Gov. Malloy will continue to push to reverse the nationwide trend of restricting voting rights. It will happen eventually.”
In the 2008 presidential election, early voting accounted for 30.6 percent of all votes.