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Empowering the Latino Community: Celebrating the Passage of Early Voting Legislation in Connecticut

Jun 5, 2023

We commend the Connecticut legislature for passing HB 5004, “An Act Implementing Early Voting,” which will bring early voting to the state for the first time. This groundbreaking legislation, which received support across party lines, is a significant step forward in expanding access to the democratic process and ensuring that all citizens have an opportunity to exercise their right to vote. We are proud to have hosted a forum earlier this year that facilitated a deep conversation among legislators, providing valuable insights and contributing to the passage of this important bill. Through our efforts, we have helped shape a more inclusive and equitable electoral system that will empower historically underserved communities, including the Latino community, to increase their civic engagement and have their voices heard.

The inclusion of a 14-day early voting period prior to general elections, a 7-day period for August primaries, and 4-day periods for special elections and the presidential preference primary demonstrates the commitment of the legislature to provide ample opportunities for citizens to cast their ballots. The extended hours on the Tuesday and Thursday before Election Day, from 8 am to 8 pm, further facilitate voter participation by accommodating various work schedules.

The provision allowing towns the option to establish additional voting sites, while still maintaining at least one open site, is a thoughtful approach that recognizes the unique needs of different communities. This flexibility ensures that voters, especially those in underserved areas, have convenient access to polling locations.

By allowing same-day registration during the early voting period, except for primaries, the legislation promotes inclusivity and eliminates barriers that may have prevented eligible voters from participating in the past. This provision is particularly beneficial for the Latino community, which often faces challenges related to work schedules and caregiving responsibilities. It empowers working families, who juggle multiple jobs and caring for children or the elderly, to engage in the democratic process without sacrificing their other responsibilities.

We also recognize the foresight of the legislature in allocating significant financial assistance to towns and cities to support the implementation of early voting. The commitment of approximately $8 million, along with bond funds for new machines, ensures that the transition to early voting is smooth and efficient, minimizing any financial burden on local governments. This investment in our democratic infrastructure is essential to the success of early voting and the enfranchisement of all citizens.

In conclusion, the passage of HB 5004 is a remarkable achievement for Connecticut and a testament to the commitment of the legislature to expand access to the ballot box. This law not only modernizes our election system but also fosters greater civic engagement within the Latino community and beyond. We applaud the lawmakers for their dedication to inclusivity, fairness, and the strengthening of our democratic values.

The bill now heads to the Governor’s office, where it is expected to be signed into law. We eagerly anticipate the Governor’s endorsement of this bill, which will further empower historically underserved communities, including the Latino community, to actively participate in our democratic process and exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Note: The Secretary of the State’s Office will be required to conduct a state-wide public awareness campaign on early voting availability at elections and primaries, including the dates, hours and voting procedures.

by Werner Oyanadel

Werner Oyanadel is the Latino and Puerto Rican Policy Director for the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, and Opportunity (CWCSEO), responsible for overseeing the policy division for the CWCEO’s Latino and Puerto Rican Sub-Commission. With a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, specializing in Public Administration and a Minor in Philosophy, he serves as a liaison between state officials, policymakers, and community stakeholders. Recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Latinos in Connecticut by Latinos United for Professional Excellence (LUPA), Mr. Oyanadel has received prestigious accolades, including the W.L. Gilbert Award for Outstanding Community Service and the Latino de Oro Award in politics from IDENTIDAD Latina Hispanic Newspaper.