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Katrina McKelvin of New London, Conn. on Aug. 6, 2020 deposits her absentee ballot for the Aug. 11 primary in a special box that has been set up outside the New London City Hall. The state of Connecticut used federal coronavirus relief funds to purchase the boxes for each city and town so voters can drop off their ballots instead of having to go personally to the polls. (AP Photo/Susan Haigh) (Susan Haigh/AP)


Opinion: Make absentee ballots, voting by mail options for all elections

Despite success in states that offer fraud-free mail-in ballots, voting by mail is opposed by some groups in Connecticut based on the debunked notion that safeguards are insufficient to preventfraud.

The flames of opposition to mail-in ballots were vigorously fanned during the 2020 presidential campaign, but allegations about widespread fraud turned out to be unfounded. To the contrary, mail-in ballots succeeded in increasing participation in our democracy.

Now confidence about the safety, security, integrity and convenience of voting by mail has been cemented by the results of the 2020 presidential election. In a contest that featured the largest voter turnout in American history, 65 million were counted out of more than 156 million cast.

The 2020 election results have been more comprehensively scrutinized and challenged than any in U.S. history. Ultimately, even U.S. Attorney General William Barr has pronounced the results free from any significant or systematic fraud or ballot misuse. The biggest objection to voting by mail — voter fraud — has proved to be a non-factor.

That is not surprising because the history of voting by mail has been uniformly successful and overwhelmingly free from fraud or misuse.

The long weeks and months of a pandemic that shrouded the path to Nov. 3 provided many people with an opportunity to assess and reconnect with the things we value most. Based on the record voter turnout in November, one of the things we value most is our freedom to elect the government representatives and leaders who should be working for us. Indeed, at SAM-CT we demand our leaders take a pledge to be transparent and accountable, to be problem-solvers and to promote electoral competition.

One action Connecticut should take to promote political competition and protect the engagement of voters in determining who holds elected office is to initiatein the next legislative session the constitutional amendment process necessary to allow voting by absentee ballot without any need for an excuse such as illness and also to allow early voting.

To enhance our voting rights and increase voter participation, we must ensure that all eligible Connecticut citizens can cast their votes easily, safely and securely — now and in the future, regardless of pandemics or other challenges.

The recent success of expanded absentee ballots in Connecticut should provide lawmakers with all the proof needed to move forward with the process for appropriately secured no-excuse absentee ballots as a permanent option for voters. Connecticut can also benefit from the experience of the 38 states that currently engage in some form of early voting.

SAM-CT is asking the Connecticut General Assembly to act quickly to put forth to Connecticut voters in 2022 a constitutional amendment to allow for appropriately secured no-excuse absentee ballots and early voting in all elections.

We are also asking readers to support this by signing this petition.

As we struggle through the challenges and inequities from COVID-19 and the great social and political divisions that emerged in the recent presidential election campaign, rebuilding an inclusive civic and political infrastructure will be a critical component of constructive change. Election reform that strengthens and increases voter participation and electoral competition is a critical factor in democracy reform. A logical first step is to make no-excuse absentee balloting and early voting permanent options for Connecticut voters.

The essence of democracy is found not in the candidates or the parties, but in the voters — and nothing is more sacred and central to that than the ability of each of us to cast a ballot.

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