Voting rights advocates in Connecticut push for nationwide changes


Conn. (WTNH) — The November election is right around the corner.

Are you registered to vote? Do you have a plan to cast your ballot that day?

These questions are at the heart of a voting rights act currently before lawmakers in our nation’s Capitol.

Congress recently passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the civil rights activist and late Georgia congressman.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal is looking forward to a vote, one he says is a fight for democracy.

“The right to vote is the core democratic right, which is why John Lewis walked across that bridge… the Pettis bridge and had his head bashed to stand up and fight for voting rights,” he said.

These advocates believe there is an erosion of election protections. They said a 2013 Supreme Court ruling gutted the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill described it as the fight for the “soul of our country.”

“There are over 400 bills introduced in various states that place very big restrictions on people’s rights and in 19 states they’ve actually passed.”

At issue: establishing new standards in which states must get “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice before changing voting practices.

This group said Connecticut voting laws get an “A,” saying it’s easier for residents to cast a ballot. They point to our state’s same-day registration and permanent ballot boxes for absentee ballot voting.

They claim other states are suppressing the votes of Hispanic and African American residents.

Corrie Betts, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee of CT NAACP, believes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will create a level playing field.

“Bypassing this bill we would create a nationwide standard that sets measures and limits on what is and is not OK when it comes to voting rights.”

A second bill, the “Freedom to Vote Act,” would make Election Day a national holiday and require same-day registration nationwide by 2024. It would also allow for at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections.

“Across the country we have seen too many states revert back to voter suppression by removing polling locations, taking away places where people can get IDs, making it more difficult, not easier for eligible citizens to cast their vote,” said Laura Smits, president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.

The U.S. Senate will vote on the measure next week unless lawmakers get sidetracked by a debate over the filibuster.

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