Testimony on S.B. 1226 – An Act Concerning State Voting Rights in Recognition of John R. Lewis

Government Administration and Elections Committee

March 20, 2023

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter, the state’s largest organization of social workers, we offer this testimony in support of S.B. 1226.

Voting is the basis of a democracy and as such it should be conducted in ways that makes voting an equal, positive experience for all voters. NASW/CT sees voting as a right of every eligible resident. As voting rights are eroded in states throughout the nation it is time for Connecticut to proactively pass a voting rights law that protects all voters to be able to vote without barriers. CT must join with states that have similar acts; New York, California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia.

Black and Brown people in Connecticut face longstanding and evolving threats to voting — and a Connecticut Voting Rights Act will provide additional protections against voter suppression. In 2020, the Center for Public Integrity observed that Connecticut voters still face some of the biggest obstacles outside of southern states. To this day, Black and Brown voters in Connecticut routinely encounter long lines and other obstacles when voting.

Among the benefits of S.B. 1226 will be expanded language assistance to those for whom English is an obstacle to casting their ballots. CT is a diverse and multi-lingual state and assuring that language is not a barrier to voting is essential for full voter participation. S.B. 1226 will create affirmative causes of action to fight discriminatory actions in court.  S.B. 1226 creates a statewide database that will assist voting officials and increase transparency in voting. S.B 1226 strengthens protections against voter intimidation, deception and/or obstruction. S.B. 1226 requires municipalities with discriminatory history to prove that proposed voting changes will not harm voters of color before such changes are implemented.

An attempt last year in Newington to dramatically reduce the number of poll locations is indicative of Connecticut not being immune to the national trends of voter restrictions.

The American Medical Association has identified voting rights to be a social determinant of health. As social workers we know the benefits of feeling a part of one’s community, of which voting is a key factor in having a sense of well-being.

Voting is a right for all our state’s voting age population. As such it must be done in a way that gives equal access and protections to all state voters. We urge the Government Administration and Elections Committee to pass S.B. 1226.

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