Disenfranchisement in Connecticut
Connecticut currently prohibits people with felony convictions from voting while they are in prison or on parole. As a result, as many as 4,000 residents living in the community cannot vote because of a past conviction. Connecticut’s law also has a disparate impact on communities of color because of racial discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system.
Additionally, Connecticut is now the only state that distinguishes between probation and parole for purposes of voting eligibility, risking confusion among election officials and eligible voters who may refrain from voting out of fear that they may be breaking the law. Connecticut’s felony disenfranchisement policy is the most regressive in the Northeast.
In 2021, legislators introduced HB 6578 and SB 5, which will automatically restore voting rights to people on parole. On March 10, 2021, a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections was held on HB 6578 and the Brennan Center provided written testimony in support of the policy. On May 25, 2021, the Senate passed SB 5. The House failed to pass the bill in time for the end of the regular legislative session.
However, the Governor then called the legislature into a special session. In the special session, SB 5 was incorporated into the new SB 1202. On June 15, 2021, the Senate passed SB 1202. The House passed the bill with amendments on June 16, 2021. On June 17, 2021, the Senate concurred in the House’s amendments. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
The Brennan Center is working with a coalition of national and Connecticut-based organizations to secure the bill's enactment and return the right to vote to thousands of people living in Connecticut’s communities.
In 2020, legislators introduced SB 233, which will automatically restore voting rights to people on parole. On February 28, 2020, a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections was held on the bill and the Brennan Center provided written testimony in support.
Lawmakers began to introduce bills to restore voting rights to people on parole in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, the Connecticut General Assembly enacted bills in 2005 and 2006 to prohibit election officials from requiring newly enfranchised voters to submit documentation proving their discharge from incarceration or parole and payment of fines in order to register to vote.
Brennan Center Materials
- Written Testimony of Eliza Sweren-Becker to the Connecticut Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections (March 10, 2021)
- Written Testimony of Eliza Sweren-Becker to the Connecticut Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections (February 28, 2020)
- Opinion: It's time to restore voting rights in Connecticut, Scott Semple, New Haven Register (April 30, 2021)
- Connecticut Should End Felony Disenfranchisement, Connecticut Law Tribune Editorial Board, Connecticut Law Tribune (March 9, 2021)
- Connecticut Advocates Pushing To Restore Voting Rights For People On Parole, Cassandra Basler, WSHU (March 3, 2021)
Brennan Center Publications
- Restoring the Right to Vote, Erika Wood (2009)
- The Brennan Center’s policy proposal for restoring voting rights for citizens with past criminal convictions.
- My First Vote (2009)
- Testimonials of individuals who regained their voting rights after being disenfranchised because of past criminal convictions.
- De Facto Disenfranchisement, Erika Wood & Rachel Bloom (2008)
- A report on how complex laws, poorly informed officials, and misinformation lead to the de facto disenfranchisement of citizens with past criminal convictions who are eligible to vote.
- Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History, Erin Kelley (2017)
- A piece examining the historical roots of criminal disenfranchisement laws that today strip voting rights from millions of U.S. citizens.
For more information about the Brennan Center’s work on Restoring Voting Rights in Connecticut, please contact Stuart Baum, at email@example.com.