The Connecticut Legislature has passed a state-level voting rights act. Connecticut now joins California, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington in offering protections against racial discrimination in voting beyond those provided by the federal Voting Rights Act. For more on this burgeoning phenomenon of voting rights federalism, see this recent paper of mine with Ruth Greenwood.
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. . . .
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.