Absentee ballots proved to be a popular alternative for the August primary.
“We went from being a state where 5% of people vote by absentee to 68% of people voting by absentee,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
After a mix-up with a mailing house and postal delays caused by a tropical storm, some voters didn’t receive their absentee ballots in time in August. For November’s general election, the state is returning the job to the local town clerks.
Merrill called it “an enormous challenge,” and urged voters to get those requests in early.
“Ballots aren’t actually mailed back to you until October, but it’s very helpful that everyone gets them in so they can process them at the local level,” said Merrill.
The United States Postal Service is urging people to plan ahead, too. They sent out a mailer encouraging people to return their absentee ballots early.
Merrill suggested instead of relying on the post office, to put both your request form and your ballot in a dropbox.
“Actually we encourage it because the postal service is a little uncertain these days,” she explained.
Merrill said 95% of drop boxes can be found in front of town hall, and most cities have multiple locations.
“Sometimes they’re in front of police stations, libraries, and that sort of thing,” she pointed out.
Some voters in West Hartford noticed the lead zero missing from their zip codes. The Secretary of the State’s office said the error happened to absentee ballot forms in five towns, but won’t affect the actual mailing of ballots.
“I want people to have confidence that their vote actually got counted fairly and accurately,” said Merrill.
She warned voters to fill out their request form and actual absentee ballot carefully.
“If you forget to sign it for example it will not be honored. Same with your ballot. If you forget to sign it, if you don’t put it in the right envelope, if that envelope is not sealed, those will be reasons to case aside your ballot,” she said.
While there's no specific deadline to return your absentee ballot request form, Merrill recommending doing so as soon as possible.
"People frequently mail back those applications well into October. You’re just taking a chance," she said.
You can register to vote online at myvote.ct.gov.
Merrill said absentee ballots will start going out after October 2.
Absentee Ballot Forms Sent to Deceased Voters
Among the two-million Connecticut voters receiving absentee ballot request forms recently was Marianna Leckey of New London. Her son, Tony, said she died nearly eight years ago.
“I was angered by it actually, because I didn’t understand those records had not been updated,” said Leckey.
“We’re very very cautious before we take anyone off a list. Because you have to remember this is people’s right to vote,” Merrill explained. “If you start wildly clearing lists just because someone hasn’t responded to your postcard, that’s a federal offense.”
She said voters aren't considered inactive until they miss two federal elections and insisted this election will be secure.
“It’s so difficult to actually forge a ballot, said Merrill. “There’s little motivation for people do things like that honestly and the idea that it could fall into someone else’s hands seems like a really remote possibility.”
Leckey questioned why the city of New London, which has his mother’s death certificate, wouldn’t have crossed-checked that information with the Registrar of Voters.
New London City Clerk Jonathan Ayala said since he was elected in 2014, his office has been working with the local registrars to remove deceased individuals from the voter rolls. Since Marianna died in 2012 she was likely missed.
“They might want to notify the Registrar of Voters office that way in case the town clerks office may miss it because not all town clerk’s offices work with the registrar of voters to communicate who has died in the city,” said Ayala, who pointed out that the absentee ballot request forms were sent out based on the Secretary of the State’s voter registration information.
Leckey pointed out that this was the first time since his mother passed away that she’s received an election-related mailing. Ayala said there’s good reason for that.
“Absentee ballot application under normal circumstances are not automatically sent out to voters. The voter has to initiate that, they have to request it,” he explained.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone on the secretary of the state’s voter rolls is receiving a ballot request form this year.
“We have multiple checks and balances to check to make sure that only one person is voting and it is that person,” she added.
Merrill said that registrars of voters are required to go through their voter rolls yearly. She also said that the Department of Public Health is supposed to share death notices with her office but admitted it is not a thorough system.
“I think it’s naive to think that some people won’t take advantage of the irregularity in the process,” said Leckey.