Secretary Merrill Issues Interpretation of New Absentee Ballot Statute
Public Act 22-2 closely aligns the language of the absentee ballot statutes 9-135 and 9-137 with Article Sixth, Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution
HARTFORD – Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today issued an official interpretation of the changes made in Public Act 22-2 to the absentee ballot statutes 9-135 and 9-137, in order to more closely conform those statutes to the language in Article Sixth, Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution. PA 22-2 removes the requirement that a person be absent from their town “during all hours of voting” when they are unable to appear at their polling place due to an absence from their town, as well as removing the requirement that the voter themselves have a sickness, or a physical disability, that prevents the voter from going to the polling place. The interpretation is attached.
“No Connecticut voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” said Secretary Merrill. “These changes are consistent with Connecticut’s Constitution and will allow more people to be eligible to cast an absentee ballot when they feel they are unable to vote in person in their polling place.”
The interpretation, made under the powers granted to the Secretary of the State by Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-3, is consistent with the Connecticut Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Fay v. Merrill (338 Conn. 1). In Fay, the court held that the determination about whether a voter is unable to appear at the polling place on the day of the election is made by the individual voter, and that the Connecticut Constitution’s language is sufficiently broad so as to allow for voters to vote by absentee ballot when a specific, identifiable disease or disability is present, even when the voter themselves is not personally sick or disabled.
This interpretation finds that after PA 22-2, 9-135 and 9-137 have been changed to allow a voter to vote by absentee ballot if, in the voter’s determination, they are unable to appear at a polling place on Election Day because of their absence from their town for a period of time on that day, because of a sickness, or because of a physical disability. When the sickness and/or the physical disability are not personal to the voter, it still must render the voter unable to appear in the polling place. For example, a voter who is a caretaker of an immunocompromised person can vote by absentee ballot if the sickness and/or physical disability of the person in their care renders the voter unable to appear at their polling place. Similarly, a voter who, in the voter’s best judgment, is unable to appear in the polling place because of the continued presence of a sickness such as the COVID-19 virus is eligible to vote by absentee ballot.
Voters can request an application for an absentee ballot from the town clerk in their town, or download an application from http://myvote.ct.gov/absentee and return it to their town clerk.