HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut moved closer Saturday toward allowing people to register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day.
By a largely party line vote, 19-16, the Democratic controlled state Senate gave final legislative approval to the bill, which already passed the House of Representatives. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, applauded the bill's passage, predicting it will increase participation in elections and improve voter access to the ballot box.
"Today is a great day in Connecticut," he said in a written statement. "Despite the pervasive climate across the U.S. to restrict voting rights, Connecticut has moved in the opposite direction — one that ensures the integrity of our electoral process is fair, accessible elections."
Republicans, however, voiced concerns about potential fraud and possible problems at the polls.
Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said he polled 63 registrars of voters about the bill and 58 told him they opposed the legislation, voicing concerns about potential fraud, additional costs and lack of sufficient staffing. He said lawmakers should listen to those who run the elections.
"It seems to me that a proposed piece of legislation that is going to be overwhelmingly opposed by the people who have the responsibility to implement the legislation ought to cause pause for concern," he said.
But Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, the co-chairwoman of the General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee, said she believes the legislation will lead to higher turnout at the polls. She said turnout in other states with Election Day registration has climbed by 10 to 12 percent.
"In our state, one out of every three eligible voters is not registered and we need to do something about that," she said. "And in this piece of legislation, we will and we do."
Under the bill, anyone is permitted to register and vote in person if they're not already a registered voter. Applicants must complete the voter registration form and provide the same identification information that's now required of registrants. They also must declare under oath that they haven't previously voted in the election.
Slossberg downplayed the concerns about fraud, saying applicants' names can be checked against the statewide voter registration database. She said there are also serious penalties for those who knowingly commit voter fraud. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he worries about the potential for an out-of-state college student being able to vote by absentee ballot in their home state and then show up at the polls in their college town on Election Day and register in Connecticut.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill supports the legislation. After Malloy signs the bill into law, she said Connecticut will become the 11th state to enact Election Day registration. Some states such as Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin, she said, have had Election Day registration on the books since the 1970s.
The bill also creates an online voter registration system for eligible Connecticut voters for general elections.
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