Statement of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on her Official Interpretation of Connecticut's Absentee Ballot Statute for Upcoming 2021 Elections
Voters with underlying medical conditions increasing their risk of COVID-19 will be able to vote by absentee ballot in elections before June 30 if they choose to do so
HARTFORD– The official interpretation of Connecticut General Statutes 9-135, Connecticut's absentee ballot statute, that was sent today to local election officials from the Office of the Secretary of the State is attached. “No Connecticut voter should be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote," said Secretary Merrill. "Last fall we witnessed how allowing voters to choose to vote by absentee ballot made it possible for a record number of people to cast their ballots and make their voices heard, despite the COVID-19 crisis. Although the law passed by the legislature to allow access to absentee ballots in November has expired, it is still critically important that voters be able to participate in Connecticut’s elections without risking their wellbeing. Today I have used my authority to give the most vulnerable Connecticut citizens the ability to vote by absentee ballot this winter and spring if they so choose.”
The official interpretation of the statute, made with the review of guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control, issued under the Secretary of the State's authority in CGS 9-3 to interpret Title 9, allows voters with underlying risk factors relevant to COVID-19 to request and receive an absentee ballot using the "his or her illness" reason found in 9-135 for all elections through June 30. Several elections will take place around the state prior to June 30, beginning with a municipal special election in Ashford on February 23.
"Connecticut still has the most restrictive absentee ballot laws in the country, and COVID-19 has again exposed how that restrictiveness can threaten our democracy," said Secretary Merrill. "The legislature can and should expand access to absentee ballots to all voters while the COVID-19 crisis persists, and start the process of passing an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution to remove these restrictions once and for all."
Connecticut is one of only seven states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina) that does not allow their voters to vote prior to Election Day without an excuse. A Constitutional Amendment to allow Early Voting passed the legislature in 2019 with a simple majority and must pass again in order to be on the ballot for voters to decide in 2022. A Constitutional Amendment to allow all voters access to absentee ballots without an excuse will be introduced this year. If that amendment passes with a 75% supermajority in each chamber it will go on the ballot in 2022; if it passes with a simple majority, it will have to come back and pass again after a new legislature is seated in 2023 and could go on the ballot for voters to decide in 2024.