As this November’s election draws closer, voters around the country are watching the courts for potential decisions affecting access to the ballot in eight states, including two courthouse battles over cutbacks to early voting in North Carolina and Ohio. These early voting cases highlight something we know to be true: given the complications of daily life, today’s voters need more than just one day to vote. Fortunately, this November, voters in Connecticut will have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether early voting comes to their state. If passed, the measure on the ballot would amend the state constitution to allow for early voting.
This ballot initiative put the choice squarely in voters’ hands — and in doing so, might further substantiate the need for expanding early voting opportunities in other states that do not currently have this common-sense reform. Ironically, in order to make their voices heard about whether to allow early voting, voters will need to show up within a one-day window, a rigid timeframe that could mean that many who would like to vote will be unable to cast a ballot.
Early voting is growing in popularity, with 33 states and the District of Columbia currently offering some form of early voting. Moreover, voters who have the opportunity to cast a ballot beyond Election Day take advantage of it: in the 2012 presidential election, 25.6 percent of ballots cast were cast before Election Day. This year, it is expected that one-third of ballots will be cast before Election Day.
Early voting is particularly popular among voters of color. During the 2012 election, African-American voters in Florida comprised only 14 percent of the electorate, but 22 percent of early voters. During the 2008 election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, African-American voters cast over three-quarters of the early vote. During the 2012 Presidential contest in North Carolina, 34 percent of African-American voters voted early, which was 27 percent higher than the white early voting turnout rate. Almost 90,000 Ohio voters participated in “Golden Week” during the 2012 election, and African American voters relied on this period three times as much as white voters.
Research shows that early in-person voting is good for both voters and election officials alike, as it makes elections more free, fair, and accessible to all. Early voting helps shorten Election Day lines, reduces Election Day stress, improves poll worker performance, and increases voter satisfaction.
Voters in Ohio and North Carolina have no choice but to wait for the courts to speak on when they will be able to go to the polls this year. Luckily for voters in Connecticut, it’s their turn to speak out on early voting — and this November these voters should cast a ballot to bring early voting opportunities to their state.