Charlotte Hughes, Contributing Photographer

On Nov. 8, Connecticut residents will weigh in on whether or not voting should occur before Election Day.

46 states allow early voting. Connecticut is one of just four that bar the practice — for now.  Voters across the state will decide whether the state constitution should be amended in order for the legislature to permit early voting. 

The Connecticut League of Women Voters, along with other statewide voter advocacy organizations, has been working to promote this ballot measure. 

“We strongly believe that… every eligible voter should be given the opportunity to vote,” said Patricia Rossi, vice president for advocacy and public issues of the Connecticut League of Women Voters. “We live in a 24-hour world now. If you can get anything you want 24 hours a day, that means there are people working 24 hours a day, and those people might not know that, when they’re going to have to work and when they can get off.”

On Nov. 8th, voters across the state will see the question “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?” If more than half, or a simple majority, vote “Yes,” then the measure will pass, and Connecticut lawmakers will add proposed changes to the constitution to allow for early voting. 

Rossi and other League of Women Voters volunteers helped register voters at Q House Cityseed Farmers Market on Wednesday, informing them that the early voting referendum question would appear on the ballot and showing them where the question would be. 

A month out from the election, Rossi said that most voters still do not know about the referendum.

“It’s tremendously important for people to have an opportunity to think about whether they want to vote yes or no,” Rossi said. “And so we want everybody to know that it’s out there.”

To spread the word about the referendum question, the League has been using any means possible, Rossi said, from posting on social media to writing in neighborhood newsletters and attending community management meetings. In Rossi’s opinion, the group has so far been successful in spreading awareness at the Cityseed Farmers Market on Dixwell Avenue. 

If the referendum fails, the League of Women Voters, along with other advocacy groups throughout the state, is back at square one, and Connecticut, along with Mississippi, Alabama and New Hampshire, will continue to bar early voting. 

“It’s been a long effort to get to this point,” Rossi said. 

For this question to appear on the November ballot, two separate Connecticut legislatures – one in 2020 and one in 2021 – had to approve the referendum and its language. If the referendum fails on Nov. 8, then this multi-year process must start over from scratch. 

Currently, no organized Connecticut group opposes the measure. But when the Connecticut legislature decided whether to allow the referendum on the November ballot, a majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate opposed the question. 

Some Republicans have doubts about the associated costs and the effectiveness of early voting. 

Dominic Rapini, a Republican candidate for Connecticut Secretary of State, expressed concerns about early voting in an interview with last April. He said that the wording of the question was vague and that if passed, early voting might place more strain on government officials. Overall, he told that he was neither for nor against the measure. 

In a tweet directed at the official Connecticut Secretary of State Twitter account on Jan. 6, 2021, Rapini warned of “wide spread, systematic voter fraud” perpetrated by Democrats, calling into question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election with the hashtag “#stopthesteal2021.” 

Rapini did not respond to requests for comment.

But Aaron Goode, the founder of the New Haven Votes Coalition and board member of the New Haven Democracy Fund, says the referendum’s most threatening “opponents” are a lack of voter turnout and awareness. 

A similar 2014 referendum that would have provided for early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots failed statewide by a margin of almost 8,000 votes. 

About 70 percent of New Haveners voted, but about 8,000 voters left the question blank — or didn’t vote on the referendum at all, Goode said. Those 8,000 voters could have led to the referendum’s success. 

“A lot of those people either couldn’t find it, they didn’t know where to look for it on the ballot, or it was too confusingly written with double negatives,” Goode said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”

To Goode, the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot is perhaps more important than the names on the ballot. 

“Constitutional amendments, like the one on early voting, last longer than the terms of elected officials,” Goode said. While Connecticut gubernatorial candidates Bob Stefanowski and Ned Lamont will likely be gone in four to eight years, the Connecticut state constitution could be around for another 200.

“We want people to look past the horse race and the names on the ballot to some of these longer-term structural, institutional issues,” Goode said. 

“It’s not a partisan issue,” Rossi said. “It’s a living-in-the-21st-century-issue.”

On Wednesday, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker expressed his support for the ballot measure. 

He wrote to the News that he was optimistic voters would support the statewide referendum in November. 

“We are a stronger democracy when more people vote, and one of the best ways to increase voter participation is by providing people with multiple accessible and convenient options to cast their ballots,” Elicker added. “Early voting is a proven way to help accomplish this, as people live busy lives and often have to balance work, childcare and other responsibilities.”

A 2016 Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans support early voting, with 85 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans in support.

Charlotte Hughes reports on climate and environmental issues in New Haven. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she is a freshman in Branford College majoring in English.