Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
November 3, 2008
The Honorable Andrew McDonald
The Honorable Michael Lawlor
Co-Chairs, Judiciary Committee
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor:
In anticipation of heavy voter turnout in Tuesday’s Presidential election, you have asked for my opinion as to whether the voting hours can be extended to accommodate an unusually large number of voters, and whether voters actually in line to vote by 8:00 p.m. but, due to long lines have not reached the voting room and checked in at the voting table, will be allowed to vote. You also ask whether any procedures exist to facilitate voting by incapacitated persons.
I conclude that the polls are required by law to remain open from six o’clock a.m. to eight o’clock p.m., and by statute may not be extended beyond that time except by a court under its equitable authority to address a specific extraordinary situation.
Any voter in line at eight o’clock p.m. shall be allowed to vote, even if there is an extended delay before they can check in and receive a ballot.
Further, voters who become incapacitated in line may be accommodated pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-261(b).
Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-174 provides:
Notwithstanding the provisions of any general statute, special act or municipal charter to the contrary, at any regular election, … the polls shall remain open for voting from six o’clock a.m. until eight o’clock p.m. No elector shall be permitted to cast his vote after the hour prescribed for the closing of the polls in any election unless such an elector is in line at eight o’clock p.m. An election official or a police official of the municipality, who is designated by the moderator, shall be placed at the end of the line at eight o’clock p.m. Such official shall not allow any electors who were not in such line at eight o’clock p.m. to enter such line.
Thus, according to Section 9-174, all state polling places shall close at 8 o’clock p.m. However, anyone standing in line at 8 o’clock must be allowed to vote. We are not aware of any state law or precedent which would allow the eight o’clock deadline to vote to be extended. While a court may exercise its equitable powers to extend the time to vote past the 8 o’clock p.m. deadline, we believe it could and would do so only in extraordinary circumstances.
In the meantime, voters should be aware that they have a right to vote if they are in line at their polling place at eight o’clock, even if they have not yet reached the voting room and checked in at the voting table.
You also asked about procedures for voting for persons who may be incapacitated, even while standing in line. First, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-150c allows persons suffering an unforeseen illness or hospitalization occurring within six days immediately preceding the election, to obtain an absentee ballot. Such person may apply for an absentee ballot from the town clerk, and appoint a designee to submit an application to the Town Clerk and to deliver the ballot to him or her at her home or in the hospital. Id. Anyone wishing to utilize this procedure should contact the town clerks.
Also, under Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-261(b), an elector in line who becomes physically unable to remain standing may request that a ballot be brought to him or her in the line, along with a privacy sleeve, and the registrar must provide such ballot, examine the elector’s identification in the line, mark the elector’s name on the official voter list, and deliver the completed ballot and privacy sleeve to the tabulator for counting.
Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-261(b) provides as follows:
In the event that an elector is present at the polling place but is unable to gain access to the polling place due to a temporary incapacity, the elector may request that the ballot be brought to him or her. The registrars of voters or the assistant registrars of voters, as the case may be, shall take such ballot, along with a privacy sleeve to such elector. The elector shall show identification, in accordance with the provisions of this section. The elector shall forthwith mark the ballot in the presence of the election officials in such manner that the election officials shall not know how the ballot is marked. The elector shall place the ballot in the privacy sleeve. The election officials shall mark the elector's name on the official voter list as having voted and deliver such ballot and privacy sleeve to the voting tabulator where such ballot shall be placed into the tabulator, by the election official, for counting. The moderator shall record such activity in the moderator's diary.
Therefore, an elector who becomes physically incapable of standing in the line will be considered temporarily incapacitated under this statute, and must be permitted to vote according to the procedure contained in Section 9-261(b).
I trust that this letter responds to your concerns.
Very truly yours,