Historic remote voting could be an option in special legislative session

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The special legislative session will likely be after the Fourth of July.
While the agenda is being debated behind the scenes, legislative management is figuring out how to safely allow pubic hearings and safe voting by lawmakers.

“This is unprecedented for all of us,” said Senator Bob Duff, (D) Westport. “No one can go back and open a playbook and say, ‘this is what happened in the last pandemic.'”

Pandemic preparations for a special legislative session include looking at all logistics.

“Looking at the logistics of how we would come in; looking at how we could make it safe for everybody to be in the building,” said Sen. Martin Looney, (D) State Senate President. “Hopefully, not having the House and Senate in on the same day.”

There are 36 members of the Senate, 151 members in the House, plus more than 100 staff.

Representative Matt Ritter, (D) State House Majority Leader, said they would also be looking at, “How many people can you have in the building at once, and how can you vote?”

One option: Remote voting through computer software that ties into the big voting board on the wall.

House lawmakers voted to make the $300,000 purchase a few years back. New “historic” rules would have to be adopted in order to allow for remote voting.

“How we use the software, when we use the software, who can use it and where they have to be?” said Representative Themis Klarides, (R) State House Minority Leader.

One of the remote voting rules: You would have to be on the capitol property on your office state-issued computer.

The other alternative is that House lawmakers could come into the chamber in small groups to safely vote as they normally would at their desks.

“It would be exceptionally difficult with all those people needing to be in the chamber,” said Klarides.

But in the Senate, where the numbers are smaller, in-person voting in small groups may be the alternative. Republicans chose not to spend the money on software.

“I don’t think it’s a great difficulty in if people want to wear gloves and masks to pass each other while walking into the chamber to press the button,” said Fasano.

Entering the building, people will need to have a face covering and sanitize hands. Security checkpoints have plastic shields separating staff from the public. Social distancing signs are posted everywhere, and green door tags signify a clean area. There are only two guests per elevator.

All leaders agree the goal is to pass strong legislation in the safest way.

Lawmakers are also working on how safe in-person public hearings would work. Right now, the general public can submit testimony online.

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