UPDATE: On Monday, June 12, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed the budget bill containing the Connecticut Voting Rights Act into law.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, June 6, the Connecticut Legislature sent House Bill 6941, a budget bill that included a state-level Voting Rights Act (VRA), to Gov. Ned Lamont (D) for his signature.
The state VRA, officially titled “An Act Concerning State Voting Rights In Recognition Of John R. Lewis,” initially advanced as a separate piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1226. Late Monday evening, lawmakers added the language from S.B. 1226 into a large state government budget. The amendment aimed to ensure the VRA’s passage before the Legislature adjourns on Wednesday.
H.B. 6941, the budget bill, now includes new avenues for voters to challenge discriminatory voting laws. In light of the U.S. Supreme Court undermining the federal VRA over the past decade, states are increasingly looking to pass their own state-level protections. Connecticut is set to join five other states — California, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington — with state VRAs. This legislative session, a state VRA failed to advance in Maryland and Democrats are still considering proposals in Michigan and New Jersey.
Connecticut’s proposed VRA would mirror the now-defunct Section 5 of the federal VRA, requiring local jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination to receive approval from the secretary of state or the superior court for the judicial district of Hartford, the state’s capital, before enacting any election laws or maps. Other provisions within the Connecticut VRA strengthen legal protections for voters, including:
- Prohibiting any voter registration, voter eligibility or voting rule that “results in an impairment of the right to vote for any protected class member.” The bill would give voters more legal tools to fight against discriminatory voting laws in court. It outlines what standards should be used, who has the right to file a lawsuit and more. Importantly, the bill notes that the “court shall not give deference or priority to a remedy proposed by a municipality simply because it has been proposed by such municipality.”
- Establishing a statewide election database, which would improve information sharing for local officials and communities across the state.
- Expanding access to non-English voting materials and assistance.
- Creating protections against “intimidation, deception or obstruction that interfere with any elector’s right to vote.”
- Proposing a legal philosophy that state or local election policies should always be construed in a pro-voter way that encourages wider participation.