As recently observed in a Hartford Current editorial by Shari Cantor, the Mayor of West Hartford, Connecticut, her state's residents face some of the most restrictive Vote-by-Mail (VBM) requirements in the nation. She notes, in her op-ed calling for an expansion of absentee voting in the Constitution State, that voters "may not obtain an absentee ballot unless they are a poll worker, an active member of the military, sick, out of town during all hours of voting, physically disabled or prevented by their religion."
In response to the restrictions, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of an individual voter and the Connecticut branches of the NAACP and League of Women Voters, have now filed a federal complaint [PDF] seeking to compel the state to allow every lawfully registered voter to cast a VBM ballot during the November 3rd general election.
CT's extraordinarily restrictive "Excuse Requirement" for voting via absentee, according to the complaint, combined with the fact that state election law does not provide for early in-person voting, forces the electorate to choose this year between exercising the franchise and the very real risk of contracting (and subsequently spreading) the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Because the restrictions on mail-in voting forces the electorate to choose between voting and a risk of death --- a choice CT's Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill, the only named Defendant in the case, conceded voters should "never" have to make --- the complaint alleges CT's Excuse Requirement, if applied during the Nov. 3rd general election, would impose an unreasonable burden on the right to vote in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The complaint separately alleges that CT's restrictive VBM Excuse Requirement denies or abridges the right to vote on account of race because the combination of greater obstacles to in-person voting and COVID-19's disparate impact on the African-American community "interacts with social and historical conditions to cause inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by Black and White voters to elect their preferred representatives. [Appellate court citation]." This, the complaint alleges, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The 42-page federal complaint is replete with references to scientific facts and law that make it a compelling legal pleading. There's a very good chance, however, that a federal judge will never have to render a decision on the merits of the case. CT's Democratic leaders, including its Governor, Ned Lamont, may find those arguments persuasive and act accordingly...