Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
September 5, 2007
Secretary of the State
Dear Madam Secretary:
You have asked this Office for an opinion concerning the use of the City of
In addition to serving as an identification card, the Elm City Resident Cards have multiple uses, including (1) serving as a city library card; (2) providing access to municipal services and sites, including free public beach access, discounted access to the municipal golf course and use of the city dump; and (3) a Parcxmart debit card component, which allows the user to load up to $150.00 to the card to be used to pay for city parking meters and for goods and services at approximately 50 participating stores.
In order to obtain an Elm City Resident Card, an applicant must apply in- person at City Hall, present acceptable identification, provide proof of
To prove residency, an applicant must present any one of the following documents: (1) a rental or real estate purchase agreement; (2) two or more utility bills with name and address; (3) an insurance bill, bank statement or check book; (4) an employment pay stub; (5) a local property tax statement; (6) proof of a minor enrolled in public or private school; (7) a voter registration card; (8) a library card; or (9) original documents from a health or social services organization attesting to the fact that the applicant is a New Haven resident.
Under Section 9-3 of the General Statutes, the Secretary of the State, as Commissioner of Elections, has the authority to issue “declaratory rulings, instructions and opinions” relating to the “interpretation and effectuation of election law,” including the laws governing voter registration and identification at the polls. See
The first issue you have asked us to address relates to your conclusion that individuals may not use Elm City Resident Cards to prove that they are eligible to vote. It is my view that this conclusion is reasonable and consistent with state law.
In order to register to vote in
Thus, in order to register to vote in Connecticut, one must: (1) be a U.S. citizen; (2) be at least 18 years of age on or before the date of the next regular election; and (3) be a resident of the city or town in which that person applies for registration. An individual seeking to prove his or her eligibility to vote in
The second issue you have asked this Office to address concerns your conclusion that Elm City Resident Cards may not be used to prove United States Citizenship during any portion of the registration process. Although Connecticut law does not specifically require all applicants to provide an admitting official with proof of United States citizenship, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-20a describes several specific forms of documentation that certain United States citizens born outside the United States may present to an admitting official as “conclusive proof” of his or her United States citizenship. See
Elm City Resident Cards are not included among the forms of documentation listed in
The third issue you have raised concerns whether Elm City Resident Cards may be used solely to prove one’s identity during the in-person or mail-in voter registration process. You have concluded that eligible voter registration applicants may use such cards solely to prove their identity. For the following reasons, this conclusion is not inconsistent with state law.
any person who is applying, by mail, to register to vote for the first time in this state may submit as part of such voter registration application: (1) a copy of a current and valid photo identification, (2) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows the name and address of the voter, (3) a valid Connecticut motor vehicle operator’s license number, or (4) the last four digits of the individual’s Social Security number.
In the event a first-time mail applicant fails to submit any of the documentation described in Section 9-23r, such individual is required to present either: (1) a copy of a current and valid photo identification or (2) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows the name and address of the voter when the individual enters the polling place in an election for federal office. See
You have concluded, based on the types of acceptable identification described in Section 9-23r, that Elm City Resident Cards may be used solely to prove one’s identity during the in-person and mail-in voter registration processes. For the reasons that follow, I conclude that this interpretation is reasonable and consistent with state law.
Section 9-23r(a) of the General Statutes describes several forms of documentation that applicants may submit with their mail-in application in order to demonstrate that they are the person filling out the application. These documents are not intended to prove eligibility to vote. Rather, they are strictly intended to serve as a means of proving one’s identity.
The General Assembly enacted the current version of Section 9-23r(a) in a June 2003 special session. See
HAVA was passed by Congress largely in response to the confusion and uncertainties experienced during the 2000 presidential election. Among other things, HAVA requires all states to implement certain minimum identification requirements for all first-time mail-in voter registration applicants.3
Section 9-23r(a) of the General Statutes, which codifies HAVA’s minimum identification requirements, provides for a relatively broad list of documents that first-time applicants may submit as proof of their identity when registering by mail. As set forth above, such documentation includes any “current and valid photo identification,” but does not limit the forms of permissible identification to documents that include a photograph or prove an applicant’s eligibility to vote. Thus, in addition to permitting a “current and valid photo identification” (which neither the statute nor HAVA defines), a first time mail-in applicant is permitted to submit with his or her application “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows the name and address of the voter.” See
You have concluded that Elm City Resident Cards may be submitted to prove one’s identity under Section 9-23r(a). Based on our review of the statutory framework and legislative history of Section 9-23r, we believe your conclusion is reasonable and consistent with state law. Neither Section 9-23r(a) nor HAVA defines the terms “current and valid photo identification” or a “government document that shows the name and address of the voter.” Moreover, nothing in the legislative history of Section 9-23r sheds light on what specific forms of documentation might fall within these classifications. Thus, it does not appear that anything in the current statutory framework or its legislative history prevents you from concluding that unexpired Elm City Resident Cards may be used as identification during the mail-in voter registration process.
In issuing any directives consistent with this conclusion, however, it is important to stress that Elm City Resident Cards, like many of the other specific forms of documentation described in Section 9-23r(a), may not be used to prove one’s eligibility as a voter. Thus, just as “a copy of a current utility bill” or “bank statement,” both of which are permissible forms of identification under Section 9-23r(a) and the minimum requirements of HAVA, may not be used to prove eligibility because they are not evidence of citizenship status or age, you should make clear that it is your view that Elm City Resident Cards may be used solely to prove one’s identity and not eligibility.4
For similar reasons, I also conclude that your conclusion that Elm City Resident Cards may be used solely to prove one’s identity during the walk-in registration process under Section 9-20(b) is consistent with state law. Thus, if a walk-in applicant fails to present a birth certificate, driver’s license, or social security card for inspection and, pursuant to Section 9-20(b), the admitting official requires “the applicant to prove his identity, place of birth, age and bona fide residence” by “the presentation of proof satisfactory to such admitting official,” see id., the walk-in applicant may prove his or her identity, but not eligibility, by presenting an Elm City Resident Card to the admitting official.
The last question you have posed concerns your conclusion that Elm City Resident Cards may be used for identification purposes at the polls pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-261. For essentially the same reasons that an applicant may prove his or identity during the mail-in registration process by presenting an Elm City Resident Card, it is reasonable and consistent with state law for you to conclude that Elm City Resident Cards may be used for identification purposes at the polls pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-261.
Section 9-261(a) of the General Statutes provides that:
[e]ach elector who registered to vote by mail for the first time on or after
The language of Section 9-261(a) is identical to the language of Section 9-23r(a). Thus, for the same reasons local officials may accept Elm City Resident Cards as identification during the mail-in registration process, you may reasonably conclude that these cards also may be used as identification at the polls under Section 9-261(a).
I trust this opinion adequately addresses your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance on this or any other matters.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General
1 It is important to note that
2 Members of the armed forces and persons entitled to use the federal post card application for absentee ballots under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-153a are not required to provide identification when registering by mail. See
3 HAVA specifically indicates that its provisions establish minimum requirements, explicitly authorizing states to institute consistent “administrative requirements that are more strict” than the federal requirements. See 42 U.S.C. § 15484.
4 In light of the forms of documentation applicants for Elm City Resident Cards are required to submit to prove identity and residency, including at least one form of photo identification, see supra, an Elm City Resident Card is arguably a more stringent means of proving one’s identity than some of the other acceptable forms under Section 9-23r(a) and HAVA, such as a current utility bill.