OLR Bill Analysis

HB 5022 (File 78, as amended by House “A,” “B,” and “C”)*

AN ACT INCREASING PENALTIES FOR VOTER INTIMIDATION AND INTERFERENCE.

SUMMARY:

This bill increases the maximum penalties for violating certain election laws related to influencing or intimidating voters, making them class C or D felonies. It also specifies that town clerks, registrars of voters, and their staff are among the primary, election, and referendum officials who may vote by absentee ballot if their duties require them to be absent from their polling place during voting hours (see BACKGROUND).

*House Amendment “A” (1) decreases the penalty in the original file for inducing an elector to do anything that enables anyone to see or know someone voted, (2) increases the penalty for tampering with voting equipment, and (3) makes technical changes.

*House Amendment “B” applies the penalty for influencing or attempting to influence any voter to refrain from voting only when the act is intentional and by force, threat, bribery, or corrupt, fraudulent, or deliberately deceitful means.

*House Amendment “C” adds the provision on absentee voting for town clerks, registrars of voters, and their staff and makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2012, except for the absentee voting provision, which is effective upon passage.

PENALTIES

The bill increases the maximum penalties for certain elections violations. By law, the penalty for a class C felony is a fine of up to $ 10,000, one to 10 years in prison, or both. The penalty for a class D felony is a fine of up to $ 5,000, one to five years in prison, or both. Current law designates a separate and lesser maximum penalty for each offense included in the bill, as Table 1 shows.

Table 1: Penalties under Current Law and the Bill

Section

Crime

Penalty Under Current Law

Penalty Under the Bill

1

Circulating misleading instructions to any voter

A fine of up to $ 500, up to five years in prison, or both

Class D felony

2

Influencing or attempting to influence any voter to refrain from voting by force, threat, bribery, or corrupt, fraudulent, or deliberately deceitful means and with the intent to disenfranchise the voter

A fine of up to $ 500 and three months to one year in prison

Class D felony

3

Threatening, forcing, or bribing a voter; suppressing or destroying any vote; miscounting any vote; or falsely or wrongfully announcing results

A fine of up to $ 1,000, up to one year in prison, or both

Class C felony

4

An employer who, within 60 days before an election, school district election, or municipal or school district meeting, attempts to influence, threatens, or later retaliates against an employee in connection with the election or meeting

A fine of between $ 100 and $ 500, six months to one year in prison, or both

Class D felony

5

Inducing or attempting to induce an elector to do anything that enables anyone to see or know how the elector or another person voted

Up to five years in prison

Class D felony

501 (House “A”)

Tampering with a voting tabulator, or defacing or destroying a ballot or any other device used to vote, with the intent to cause the voting equipment to incorrectly register votes

Up to five years in prison

Class C felony

BACKGROUND

Absentee Voting

The state constitution authorizes the General Assembly to pass a law allowing electors to cast their vote by absentee ballot if they will be out of town, sick, or physically disabled or the tenets of their religion prohibit secular activity on Election Day (Article 6 7). The General Assembly exercised this authority as CGS 9-135 that allows any person to vote by absentee ballot if:

1. he or she is in active service with the armed forces of the United States;

2. he or she is absent from his or her city or town of residence during all hours of voting;

3. he or she is ill or physically disabled;

4. the tenets of his or her religion forbid secular activity on the day of the primary, election, or referendum; or

5. he or she is an election or referendum official outside of his or her voting district whose duties will keep him or her away during all hours of voting.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

9

Nay

6

(03/12/2012)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

26

Nay

9

(04/10/2012)