Testimony on SB 5: An Act Concerning Increased Opportunities for Absentee Voting, Safe and Secure In-Person Voting and Voter Registration

Government Administration and Elections Committee

March 26, 2021

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2,300 members statewide, we offer this testimony on S.B. 5.

Voting is the basis of a democracy and as such it should be conducted in ways that makes voter registration easy and accessible to all eligible voters. S.B. 5 does exactly this by expanding Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) to certain state agencies beyond the Department of Motor Vehicles. Amongst those agencies is the Departments of Social Services that serve significant numbers of low-income and vulnerable populations that are less likely to be registered voters. S.B. 5 also calls for public high schools to proactively distribute voter registration material that will encourage voter registration of newly eligible voters.

We live in a world of electronic communication and commerce. It is time that our state voter registration process be brought up to 21st century standards. Allowing for telephone and electronic requests for absentee ballots will ease the process of attaining an absentee ballot and thus encourage more eligible voters to partake in the electoral process.

S.B. 5 addresses the needs of voters with developmental disabilities where such disability may be an obstacle to participating in elections.

Incarcerated persons in community residences will have their voting rights restored under this bill. If we expect those who committed a felony to move forward in a positive manner with their lives, we need to take steps to facilitate such a change. Denying voting rights is an unnecessary, and punitive measure that serves no positive outcomes. Denying voting rights can be psychologically detrimental to the incarcerated person, impedes re-engagement with the community and denies incarcerated person the right to participate in the electoral process that both directly and indirectly impacts on their lives.

NASW/CT sees voting as a right of every eligible resident. Elected officials set policies that affect all residents and every eligible voter should have options and ease to register to vote and to be able to vote without barriers.

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