Preview: GAE Election Bills on the GA Floor

Disclosure: I interned for Representative Spallone in 2007.

I had the opportunity to interview Representative Jamie Spallone, the Co-Chair of the GAE Committee, last week and will be presenting the results of the interview here, in two parts. In today’s segment, we talked about the interesting Election-related bills raised out of GAE. Part two will appear here tomorrow.

EDR

The first bill we talked about was HB 6435 An Act Concerning Election Day Registration. EDR has come close to passage twice before, once vetoed by then-Governor Rowland (citing a lack of a centralized voter database, an issue that has since been rectified in the wake of the passage of HAVA) and once passing the Senate but running out of time in the House.

This time around there has been a strong effort to work with the Registrars (who have expressed reservations about EDR in the past) to find a workable compromise. This iteration of EDR, as opposed to past proposals, would require one site in each town, the office of the Registrars, to be used to register unregistered voters on registration day. The ballots would then be filled out at that site. Some of the details, such as where those ballots will be counted, still need to be determined, but this compromise would simplify the process for implementing EDR.

The compromise would also reduce costs compared to an every polling place rollout of EDR. In the past, the fiscal note attached to EDR bills has noted a significant potential for increased costs, while this proposal has only the potential for increased costs (in the form of additional election day workers in the EDR site). Passage would also largely eliminate the need for provisional ballots and curtail the need for Presidential ballots (ask a Town Clerk how happy that makes them).

Representative Spallone has indicated that he will push for passage this term, and would like to implement EDR this year in time for the municipal elections, as adry run before a statewide and congressional election year. The EDR bill is currently in Planning and Development and still has to go to Appropriations. As in the past, the votes for passage are expected to be there in both the Senate and the House, and there has been no indication either way on whether Governor Rell will sign or veto, or whether there will be enough votes for a potential veto override.

National Popular Vote

As Genghis noted, HB 6437 An Act Concerning An Agreement Among The States To Elect The President Of The United States By National Popular Vote is likely to make it to a vote on the floor this session. Representative Spallone was confident that it has the votes to pass in the House. Were it to pass, and be signed into law, Connecticut would likely become the sixth state (Washington’s legislature sent the bill to the Governor who has not yet signed it, but has expressed support for it in the past) to pass the bill, representing 68 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to make the compact operative.

More information on the National Popular Vote can be found here.

Early Voting/No Excuse Absentee Balloting

Both of these proposals would require a Constitutional Amendment, SJ 43 Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution Concerning Voting By Absentee Ballot and HJ 113 Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution To Allow Early Voting. As such, they need to pass both chambers of the GA with a 3/4 majority in order to be in front of the voters in 2010 and be implemented in 2011. If they pass with a simple majority, they must pass again after the 2010 election, go to the voters in 2012, and be implemented in 2013.

Senate Vacancy

SB 913 An Act Concerning United States Senate Vacancies is a priority of the GAE Committee, and is currently on the Senate calendar. The bill would require a special election within 160 days of a Senate vacancy rather than an appointment by the Governor for up to two years before a special election. This one likely has the votes to pass both houses, and then will likely be vetoed by the Governor. The question is regarding the 2/3 necessary to override the veto. In the House, this likely will not be an issue, given the wide Democratic Majority. The Senate, where the Democrats control exactly the 2/3 necessary, is, and will likely remain, up in the air until the last moment.

Municipal Ethics Package

HB 5827 An Act Concerning The Removal Of Municipal Elected Or Appointed Officials, HB 6690 An Act Concerning Municipal Lobbying, and HB 6696 An Act Concerning Municipal Ethics would require towns to adopt a streamlined version of the ethics code that applies to state government (streamlined to have a limited fiscal impact), require municipal lobbyists to register as such and display badges, and would allow the Chief State’s Attorney, the local State’s Attorney, or the Attorney General to petition to empanel a three judge panel to determine whether to remove a municipal official. The removal statute, modeled after existing laws in Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, is a reaction to the situation in most towns where municipal officials cannot be removed.

Thus concludes the rundown of the interesting GAE bills up this session. Check back tomorrow for more from my interview with Representative Jamie Spallone.

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9 responses to “Preview: GAE Election Bills on the GA Floor

  1. EDR is the biggest joke going. No one who should be voting decides on election day, “Gee, maybe I should vote after all” and would run on down to the polls. This is going to be abused by BOTH parties as a means of dragging people in mass to the polls and more or less holding their hand/telling them who to vote for. How do you expect someone who is not even responsible enough to register to vote before the deadline to make an informed decision about who to vote for?

  2. The first thing to be aware of, is that this bill would be applied to all elections, including municipal and primaries. I’m not sure about referrenda.

    Only voters with proper address and name, etc. identification will be able to vote (College photo id’s and driver licenses are acdceptable, and lack of photo would require additional proof of residency). Every Election day voter will be mailed a confirmation letter after the election, and if it comes back undeliverable would be forwarded to election enforcement for investigation. This won’t ‘get the horse back in the barn’, but we will have a clear idea if there are organized or significant abuses.

    I’d like to see something in the bill to have election enforcement and Registrars report back to the legislature the effectiveness or incidence of problems.

    One potential area of confusion is the use of party enrollment on election day, creating open primaries. I doubt this is the intention of the legislature, but the bill needs to include clear language relating to switching parties (R – D or D – R, etc.) on election day. What about election day enrollment from Unaf. to either party?

    No Registrar likes turning a voter away, but the big fear of busses ariving at their offices at 7:45 pm, all unregistered and needed to be processed. The second fear is a big influx of college students and the inherent difficulty of determining that they had not yet voted absentee in their home towns. This problem will require a lot of post election follow-up.

  3. Only voters with proper address and name, etc. identification will be able to vote (College photo id’s and driver licenses are acceptable, and lack of photo would require additional proof of residency).

    Just to be clear, this legislation does not change the id/affirmation necessary for voters who are already registered, or the id requirements for registration. And, neither here nor there, but I do not think that college ids are good, unless they have an address. See 9-261.

    One potential area of confusion is the use of party enrollment on election day, creating open primaries. I doubt this is the intention of the legislature, but the bill needs to include clear language relating to switching parties (R – D or D – R, etc.) on election day. What about election day enrollment from Unaf. to either party?

    I don’t think this is an issue as the bill is currently written, as it doesn’t change the rule that you have to switch parties 90 days before a primary in order to vote in that primary, or the day before in order to go from u to a party.

  4. It is actually File #553, with ammendments expectedonce it hits the floor. As to ID’s, Sec. 1 states “(c) Any such application shall be made in accordance with the provisions of section 9-20 of the general statutes, provided (1) on election day, the applicant shall appear in person at the location designated by the registrars of voters for election day registration, (2) an applicant who is a student enrolled at an institution of higher education may submit a current photo identification card issued by said institution in lieu of the identification required by section 9-20 of the general statutes, and (3) the applicant shall declare under oath that the applicant has not previously voted in the election. If the information that the applicant is required to provide under section 9-20 of the general statutes and this section does not include proof of the applicant’s residential address, the applicant shall also submit a United States passport, a military identification card, a learner’s permit or a utility bill that has the applicant’s name and current address and is due not later than thirty days after the election or, in the case of a student enrolled at an institution of higher education, a registration or fee statement from such institution that has the applicant’s name and current address.

    As to the primary, another bill proposed (SB 911 File 140) reduces the 90 day delay to 30 days

  5. If the information that the applicant is required to provide under section 9-20 of the general statutes and this section does not include proof of the applicant’s residential address, the applicant shall also submit a United States passport, a military identification card, a learner’s permit or a utility bill that has the applicant’s name and current address and is due not later than thirty days after the election or, in the case of a student enrolled at an institution of higher education, a registration or fee statement from such institution that has the applicant’s name and current address.

    That’s the part that will render almost all student ids useless, because all the things listed are things listed in 9-20 anyway, aside from the registration or fee statement.

    What is interesting, is that they fixed the problem for students with PO Box style mailboxes that have nothing with their actual address on it, but only for EDR, and not for mailed in registrations. Also, the same problem likely exists for some people who live in nursing homes, but it is unaddressed.

  6. allow the Chief State’s Attorney, the local State’s Attorney, or the Attorney General to petition to empanel a three judge panel to determine whether to remove a municipal official

    Is there currently a process in place that allows for the removal from office of municipal officials or is this an entirely new power for the state?

  7. Is there currently a process in place that allows for the removal from office of municipal officials or is this an entirely new power for the state?

    My understanding is that there are a few towns where the charter provides for removal of municipal officials, but in the vast majority of towns, the mayor could actually go to jail and still be the mayor unless he/she resigned.

  8. Municipal (and state) ethics reform should include both:

    1) power of subpoena for state’s attorneys
    2) easier ability to convene a grand jury

    That’s not just me. The NYTimes’ gave me the idea.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/opinion/nyregionopinions/CT-Corrupt.html?_r=2&oref=slogin

    I thank Rep. Spallone and Sen. Slossberg for doing their tour around the state. I spoke at their Waterbury meeting.

    In the end though, I think they’re going to have to “pull a Hartley” to ensure real change. After all,

    Comity reigns supreme under The Gold Dome

  9. 73% OF CONNECTICUT VOTERS SUPPORT A NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE FOR PRESIDENT IN APRIL 2008 POLL

    A survey of 797 Connecticut voters conducted April 19-20, 2008 showed 73%-27% support for a national popular vote for President.

    By party, support for a national popular vote for President is 80%-20% among Democratic voters; 59%-41% among Republicans, and 76%-24% for Others.

    By age, support is 76%-24% among 18-29 year olds; 67%-33% among 30-45 year olds; 72%-28% among 46-65 year olds; and 78%-22% among 65-and-older.

    By gender, support is 81%-19% among women and 64%-36% among men.

    By race, support is 73%-27% among whites, 71%-29% among African-Americans, 79%-21% among Hispanics, and 66%-34% among Others.

    see http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

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