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Advocates Calling for Passage of CT Voting Rights Act

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Wednesday, April 5, 2023   

Connecticut advocates are calling on the General Assembly to pass the state's Voting Rights Act.

The bill would enshrine the protections of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and eliminate certain barriers to voting specific to Connecticut.

The bill would provide new legal tools to fight discriminatory voting rules, expand language assistance for voters with limited English, and adopt strong protections against voter intimidation.

Jess Zaccagnino, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, described how the bill's pre-clearance program aims to handle voting rights problems before they happen.

"This program would basically put the burden on local governments," said Zaccagnino, "where there are records of discrimination and that's set out in a formula in the bill to prove that certain changes they would make to their election procedures wouldn't harm voters of color or other protected groups before those changes could go into effect."

The bill was introduced in the General Assembly during the 2022 Legislative Session, but never advanced out of committee.

During a public hearing this year, some people said this legislation only makes voting more complicated, albeit less reliable. Others feel the bill is too broad and tears down federal protections.

It has been filed with the Legislative Commissioners' Office.

Beyond this bill, Zaccagnino noted that there are other ways to strengthen voting in the state. In particular, she said the state needs to pass an early voting plan, and expand absentee voting.

But, the biggest challenge to getting the state's voting rights act passed is time - since the General Assembly is part-time.

"We need to advocate to our legislators that the Voting Rights Act is a bill that is worth being taken up on the House and Senate floor, which you know, I absolutely believe it is," said Zaccagnino. "And make sure that the bill gets brought up, not towards the end of session, because if it does get brought up in the last week or two it really sharply restricts its chances of passing."

While the bill has had a great deal of support, she noted that opposition has mostly come in the form of people feeling this legislation isn't necessary.

But, Zaccagnino pointed to Connecticut's long history of voter discrimination, considering it was the first state to require literacy tests.




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