Connecticut has significantly improved its voting access laws since 2011, according to a study conducted by the New Haven-based analytics group DataHaven.
DataHaven revisited a 2011 evaluation of Connecticut’s voting laws performed by Rock the Vote — a national organization that promotes voting rights and youth voting — which gave the state a score of 4.2 out of 21. DataHaven’s recent reassessment increased Connecticut’s score to 11.2 out of 21. Assuming voter access scores have remained constant nationwide, Connecticut’s national ranking has increased from 48th to 12th, the report states.
“The fact that we made so much progress in the last four years is really encouraging,” said Patrick Gallahue, communications director of the Connecticut Office of the Secretary of the State. “At the end of the day it has to be about making it as convenient as possible for people to register and to cast a vote.”
The implementation of online registration and same-day registration, accounted for six points of Connecticut’s seven-point improvement. The enactment of permanent and portable registration, which allows a person’s voter registration to remain valid when he or she moves within the state, earned the other point.
Although noteworthy progress has been made, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is still pushing for reform, Gallahue said. Potential improvements include establishing a comprehensive automatic registration system, which would allow people to register while they are accessing other public services, such as signing up for a driver’s license.
“There have been certain bureaucratic challenges; there are resource considerations because it’s going to cost money to do this,” Gallahue said. “[But] I think now that we’ve made progress, we can go further.”
Mary Buchanan, DataHaven project manager, noted that Connecticut still does not offer early voting and requires absentee voters to give formal excuses for why they are not voting in person. She also said Connecticut has zero points in the Civics Education category of the Rock the Vote scoring guidelines, meaning that the importance of civic engagement and voting is not explicitly taught in public schools.
Both Buchanan and Gallahue mentioned that Connecticut’s improvement is particularly remarkable, considering the measures many states have taken to restrict voters’ access to the polls.
“Many states [since 2011] have put in restrictive voting registration laws: For instance, requiring people to have a state-issued ID or passport, or limiting hours during which people can go to polling places to cast a vote, which, for people that don’t have flexibility to get out of work early, that’s very difficult for them,” Buchanan said. “Connecticut really opened the door for a lot of people.”
Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken also commended the state’s “cutting-edge policies” and recognized that the state is leading the country.
Almost 40,000 Connecticut residents have registered online since the establishment of the online registration system in 2014.