Connecticut voters overwhelmingly approved of in-person early voting, capping a years-long effort to expand ballot access in a state with some of the toughest election laws in the nation.

In addition to races for governor, Congress, state legislature and other statewide offices, there was also a question on the ballot this year asking voters if the constitution of the state had to be amended to allow early voting. About 60%, or 674,002 voters, said yes, according to the Secretary of State’s unofficial results. Connecticut’s constitution currently limits in-person voting to Election Day.

What happens now? When the General Assembly meets next year, lawmakers will begin crafting a bill to establish an early voting system here. Connecticut is one of only four states without early voting, including New Hampshire, Alabama and Mississippi.

State rules for in-person early voting range, with the average start date 30 days before the election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Polling times and days are open for early voting with twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allowing some early voting on weekends, according to NCSL.

The state’s localized electoral system — with voting administered by officials in 169 cities and towns — complicates the process.

“Municipalities are going to be very nervous about the cost, safety and ability to do this,” said House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “So we really have to work closely with them.”

A small city like Bethlehem, with a population of less than 4,000, may be able to manage change more easily than a city like Hartford, which has a population of over 120,000. Ritter said he had heard “some talk” of allowing early voting for 60 days, but said that was “way too far before an election.”

While details will be worked out in the 2023 legislative session, Ritter said he thinks allowing Connecticut voters to vote in person two to three weeks before an election is a more realistic timeline — keeping in mind. mind existing election laws, including when mail-in ballots can be printed.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-Branford, said he would like to see a shorter deadline from the Saturday before the election. “I think the weekend should be enough,” he said.

Candelora and Ritter both said it’s possible an early voting system will be in place in Connecticut by next year’s municipal elections, but the 2024 presidential election seems more likely. “I’m confident we’ll have it by 2024,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, the election watchdog among groups advocating for expanded ballot access. .

A similar effort to expand voting opportunities in states failed in 2014. Former Secretary of State Denise Merrill, spearheading this year’s effort, attributed the success this time to a broader coalition of supporters, as well as expanding mail-in voting eligibility during COVID-19. pandemic, and a major education campaign, involving approximately 1,000 volunteers, to raise voter awareness of the early voting referendum.

“His time had come,” Merrill said.

Merrill said the secretary of state’s office is working on a survey analyzing the 46 states that already offer early voting. That report will be ready for Secretary of State-elect Stephanie Thomas when she takes office, Merrill said. “There are a lot of models to look at.”

Some states are not opening all of their polling places and are instead offering early voting at city halls. This could address concerns about cost, she said. There is also the possibility of small towns sharing services. “It doesn’t have to cost more money,” she said.