Press Releases

09/28/2021

Connecticut Secretary of the State Merrill and Governor Lamont Marked National Voter Registration Day at the Connecticut Historical Society

Secretary Merrill Joined Governor Lamont to Honor NASS Medallion and John Lewis Youth Leadership Award Winners Celebrated Legislative Victories Expanding Voting Rights

HARTFORD – Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Governor Ned Lamont today marked National Voter Registration Day by honoring National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Award winners Peggy Reeves and Carol Rizzolo, John Lewis Youth Leadership Award winner Akia Callum, and by celebrating the significant advancements in voting rights secured in the past legislative session. The event was held at the Connecticut Historical Society’s Connecticut Freedom Workers: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement exhibit.

The 2021 legislative session was one of the most consequential, and successful, legislative sessions of recent years with respect to voting rights. This year the legislature passed, and the governor signed, legislation codifying Automatic Voter Registration at the DMV and expanding it to other Voter Registration Agencies, extending the right to vote to people on parole, making secure absentee ballot drop boxes a permanent part of Connecticut elections, eliminating prison gerrymandering from the redistricting process, strengthening our post-election audit procedures, and made it easier for people with disabilities to cast their ballots.

The legislature also sent a constitutional amendment that would allow Early Voting to the voters in 2022, and started the process of allowing voters to vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow for universal access to absentee ballots in a ballot question on the 2024 ballot.

“This year, Connecticut took giant steps towards fulfilling the promise of our democracy and ensuring that every citizen can easily register and conveniently cast their ballots to make their voices heard.,” said Merrill. “We should all be proud that our state took action to expand the right to vote, make voter registration easier, and to advance the effort to finally bring Connecticut in line with the 45 other states that allow their voters to cast their ballots prior to Election Day without needing an excuse.”

“I am proud to live in a state which values and protects our right to vote, and is working to increase access to the ballot box,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “We have leaders in Connecticut like Secretary of the State Denise Merrill who have worked each day to increase voter turnout in all of our communities, and break down the barriers both voting and registering, which continue to be challenged in other states. Our values here in Connecticut are exhibited proudly in the individuals we honored with the NASS Medallion and an award which bears the name of a Civil Rights icon in John Lewis. We must continue to do everything we can to expand the right to vote, and fight injustice and barriers to voting at every turn.”

The John Lewis Youth Leadership Award was created in February 2021, as a way for Secretaries of State to recognize a gifted, civic-minded young person in their state each year. The recipient should demonstrate leadership abilities, have a passion for social justice, and be motivated to improve the quality of life in their community.

“Akia Callum makes me so excited to see what the younger generations do to improve their communities and encourage civic engagement,” said Merrill. “It is an honor to award Akia with the very first John Lewis Youth Leadership Award in Connecticut because she embodies the same fighting spirit that Representative Lewis did. Akia has organized and advocated for racial justice, youth involvement, and voter registration, and has made a tangible difference in her community. I can’t wait to see what she does next!”

The NASS Medallion Award allows individual Secretaries of State to recognize outstanding service and dedication to furthering the mission of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) within each state. The award was created to honor individuals, groups, or organizations with an established record of promoting the goals of NASS in one or more of the following areas: Elections, with special emphasis on voter education and participation; civic education, including the teaching, promotion, and study of this subject; service to state government, specifically as it relates to the duties of the office of the Secretary of the State; a commitment to giving – a business or individual whose philanthropic contributions have significantly enhanced the quality of life in a local or regional area within a state, or within an entire state.

“Peggy Reeves served Wilton as a Registrar of Voters and a State Representative, Connecticut as our Election Director, and our country on the board of the National Association of State Election Directors,” said Merrill. “Peggy was instrumental in the implementation of critical election reforms like Election Day Registration, Online Voter Registration, and Automatic Voter Registration, and helped Connecticut become a national leader in election administration.”

“Carol Rizzolo is a force of nature,” said Merrill. “Her passion and advocacy were vital to Connecticut’s expansion of voting rights and voter access in the past legislative session. I look forward to working with her over the next few years to pass and implement early voting and universal access to absentee ballots, as well as ensuring that every Connecticut citizen is able to easily register and every registered voter can conveniently vote.”

A private, nonprofit, educational organization established in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. Located at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, the CHS houses a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center that are open to the public and funded by private contributions. The CHS’s collection includes more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials accessible at our campus and on loan at other organizations. The CHS collection, programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities, and make informed decisions based on our past and present.

The Connecticut Freedom Workers: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement exhibit is on display at the Connecticut Historical Society until October 16. More information is attached.

National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy. First observed in 2012, nearly 4.5 million voters have registered to vote on the holiday to date. Celebrated on the fourth Tuesday of September, National Voter Registration Day seeks to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise.

In Connecticut, Connecticut voters can find more information at myvote.ct.gov, register to vote at myvote.ct.gov/register, and find their polling places at myvote.ct.gov/lookup.

Connecticut Historical Society: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement Exhibitions Overview

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