Testimony on S.B. 471 – An Act Concerning Elections And State Voting Rights

Government Administration and Elections Committee

March 25, 2022

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing nearly 2,400 members statewide, we offer this testimony on S.B. 471.

Voting is the basis of a democracy and as such it should be conducted in ways that makes voting easily accessible 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 have a voting rights law that protects all voters to be able to vote without barriers.

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. 471 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. 471 will make it realistic for black, brown or other voters of color to file a lawsuit if they face voter intimidation or obstruction.  S.B. 471 also creates a statewide database that will assist voting officials and increase transparency in voting.

A recent attempt in Newington to dramatically reduce the number of poll locations is indicative of Connecticut not being immune to the national trends of voter restrictions. A voter rights and protections act are much needed and we urge its passage.

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