Hartford — The eldest son of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the state Capitol on Monday to commend Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other Connecticut leaders for backing legislation to expand citizens’ voting options at a time when other states are pushing strict voter ID requirements.
Martin Luther King III also praised the General Assembly for passing a death penalty repeal bill this spring and enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit last year.
“Connecticut is doing some great things,” King said at a news conference in the Capitol. “This is the only state that I’m aware of that has taken this position, providing legislation that is going to be voted on, to increase access to voting,” King said.
King and Malloy noted that during the past three years, several states including Texas, Georgia, Indiana and Wisconsin have started requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls.
Proponents of such laws say they prevent voter fraud. But critics claim the requirement suppresses participation among low-income groups and minorities, who may have trouble obtaining the credentials.
“Every study about fraud in elections in the United States demonstrates that there is very little, and more often than not, no fraud — period — statistically speaking,” Malloy said.
“Yet in the name of preventing fraud, these laws would deny people who have voted for decades — decades — the ability to vote because they can’t drive a car, because they can’t move themselves to a place to receive that identification,” the governor said. “It is patently unfair, and I will go so far as to say racist in its intent.”
Under Connecticut law, a registered voter must present a pre-printed form of identification at the polls, such as a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document that shows the voter’s name and either address, signature or photograph.
Two voting rights bills now before the legislature would allow Election Day voter registration in the state, create an Internet-based system to complement the current voter registration system and increase penalties for voter intimidation or interference.
Additionally, both the Senate and House recently voted on a joint resolution that could put a question on the November 2014 ballot to amend part of the state constitution concerning absentee voting.
Such an amendment would clear the way for future legislation to allow early voting in Connecticut, mail-in voting or “no excuse” absentee ballots.
Although the amendment resolution passed both legislative chambers, it failed to obtain the three-quarters support necessary to get on the ballot this November. Under the legislature’s rules, it goes back to the General Assembly next spring, and only a simply majority vote would be needed for full passage.
King said he wished his home state had the “visionary leadership” that Connecticut has on these issues.
“I wish I could take some of you guys back to Atlanta and help us out in Georgia, because we need some help,” he said.