HARTFORD—State Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, the ranking member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, issued a statement Friday in strong opposition to the passage in the House of H.B. 5004, an Act Implementing Early Voting.
The bill calls for 14 days of early voting before general elections, seven days for primaries, and four days for special elections. The Democrat-backed bill makes no guarantee that funding for the Early Voting will be included in future budgets. Ballots cast during the early time period would be held until Election Day, when they would be fed into a tabulator.
“The voters spoke last year and were in favor of Early Voting and we need to abide by their decision. But when they approved of it last year, the ballot question didn’t specify how many days would constitute ‘early.’ Could voters have known that it would have been 14 days? Absolutely not. That number of days will come at a significant cost to our taxpayers now, and for future elections,” Rep. Mastrofrancesco said. “Although the budget includes funding for Early Voting, there is nothing in the bill that says how that money will be distributed fairly to all municipalities. There are no guarantees that funding will be available in future budgets. It is unfair to pass these added costs on to taxpayers, who will ultimately end up footing the bill. We had proposed a practical timeframe that would have given all voters the chance to cast their ballots early, while reducing the costs, but the majority would not join us in this commonsense amendment.”
The bill was written by House Democrats; Republicans were not included in the drafting of the legislation. Rep. Mastrofrancesco had introduced amendments that would have set the number of Early Voting days to three days, including a day on the weekend, in order to reduce the cost to taxpayers. Democrats failed to support that amendment. Another amendment called for 10 days of early voting – a timeframe suggested by Connecticut’s Secretary of State – but Democrats failed to support that measure as well.
According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the bill would result in “significant ongoing labor cost to the state and municipalities.” This bill will also mandate that a town keep a polling location open for 14 days.
“The fact is, many of our smaller towns cannot afford to stay open for 14 days in a row, nor do they have the staff to keep a location open for that long,” Rep. Mastrofrancesco said.
Republicans had proposed additions to the bill that would have limited the hours of Early Voting to the same hours that a town’s offices are open, but that was rejected by the majority party.
The bill now awaits passage in the Senate.