As states across the country engage in the greatest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow, Connecticut has an opportunity in 2023 to set a new standard for protecting the freedom to vote.
State lawmakers can do so by passing S.B. 1226, An Act Concerning State Voting Rights in Recognition of John R. Lewis (“Connecticut Voting Rights Act” or “CTVRA”). This transformative law builds upon the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and successful state laws already passed in New York, California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia. Connecticut considered a similar bill last session as SB 471. If passed in 2023, the CTVRA will immediately become one of the most comprehensive state-level voting rights acts in the country.
The Legislature now considering the law — just in time for Connecticut to lead as other states move backward and Congress struggles to move forward on voting rights. On March 27, 2023, lawmakers voted to pass the CTVRA out of committee.
On May 25, 2023, the Connecticut State Senate voted to pass S.B. 1226. The bill now moves to the Connecticut House of Representatives, which has the opportunity to enact this historic legislation by June 7, when the current session ends.
Since 2021, at least 42 restrictive voting laws have been passed in 21 states. Many of these laws include provisions that will be in effect for the 2022 midterm elections. Dozens of states are considering additional anti-voter legislation this year. As states build barriers to the ballot box, the US Senate has once again failed to pass legislation to restore key protections and enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, we need states to lead by example to protect our right to vote.
Despite Connecticut’s progressive reputation, there are still discriminatory barriers to equal participation in our democracy for voters of color and people whose first language is not English, particularly at the local level. Recently, the Center for Public Integrity observed that Connecticut voters still “face some of the biggest obstacles outside of the south.” In fact, Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation with Black and Latino voters facing limited access to absentee voting, no early voting, and longer voting lines.
Conditions that can foster voting discrimination — such as unfairly drawn districts that weaken Black and Brown voting power, inaccessible polling locations, insufficient language assistance for voters who don’t speak English, and even outright voter intimidation — endure throughout Connecticut. Connecticut’s towns and cities use at-large election structures or district maps, some of which may impair the ability of voters of color to elect candidates of their choice or influence the outcome of elections.
If passed, the CTVRA will be one of the most comprehensive state-level voting rights acts in the country, building on successful laws already on the books in California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia—and especially the successful passage of the NYVRA in New York.
2020 saw a dramatic increase in attempts to suppress the vote of Black, Latinx, and other minority-community voters. Democracy Defended captures and analyzes LDF’s work during the 2020 election season, including our Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender initiatives. It provides documentation of barriers faced by Black voters in PTV/VRD focus states and solutions for policy makers, election administrators, and community members to implement to ensure fair access to the vote in future elections.