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Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Connecticut

Connecticut enacted legislation to restore voting rights to thousands living in the community.

Last Updated: June 23, 2021
Published: May 25, 2021

On June 23, 2021, Gov. Lamont signed legis­la­tion restor­ing voting rights for all state resid­ents who are not in prison.

Disen­fran­chise­ment in Connecti­cut

Prior to chan­ging its law on June 23, 2021, Connecti­cut prohib­ited people with felony convic­tions from voting while they were in prison or on parole. As a result, as many as 4,000 resid­ents living in the community could not vote because of a past convic­tion. Connecti­c­ut’s previ­ous law had a dispar­ate impact on communit­ies of color because of racial discrim­in­a­tion in the state’s crim­inal justice system.

Addi­tion­ally, Connecti­cut was the last state in the coun­try that distin­guished between proba­tion and parole for purposes of voting eligib­il­ity. That policy risked confu­sion among elec­tion offi­cials and eligible voters who may have refrained from voting out of fear that they may be break­ing the law. Connecti­c­ut’s prior felony disen­fran­chise­ment policy was also the most regress­ive in the North­east.

Legis­lat­ive Efforts

In 2021, legis­lat­ors intro­duced HB 6578 and SB 5, to restore voting rights to people on parole. On March 10, 2021, the Joint Commit­tee on Govern­ment Admin­is­tra­tion and Elec­tions held a hear­ing on HB 6578 and the Bren­nan Center provided writ­ten testi­mony. 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 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. Gov. Lamont signed SB 1202 into law on June 23, 2021.

The Bren­nan Center worked 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.

In 2001follow­ing a years-long grass­roots campaign, Repub­lican Governor John G. Rowland signed into law legis­la­tion that first restored voting rights to people on proba­tion.

Bren­nan Center Mater­i­als

Press

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 Derek Paul­hus, at paul­hus­d@bren­nan.law.nyu.edu.