A historic power outage and pandemic have caused confusion among voters as they prepare to vote by absentee ballot or head to the polls Tuesday.
Checking the ballot box outside the city hall is now an hourly task for town clerk offices across the state.
“So it has to actually be in our office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Those ballot boxes will be locked at 8 p.m. on Election night,” Noel McGregor, Hartford's city clerk, said.
If someone hasn’t returned their absentee ballot yet it is now too late to put it in the mail, he explained.
“Definitely don’t put it in the mail put it in the box at city hall and it will be counted,” McGregor said.
Voters who mailed back their absentee ballots can check and see if their town has received them by going to www.Myvote.Ct.Gov/lookup. The website managed by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office will say when an absentee ballot was received if the town clerk has entered the information.
That won’t be possible yet in seven towns that have no internet access. There are another seven polling places on generators, mostly in Fairfield county.
The USPS has been working to make sure town clerks receive the ballots, which are marked with yellow along the side of the envelope.
“Postal service has been disrupted and we were already on a really tight time frame with many people who still had not received their ballots,” Merrill said.
Merrill said the more than 300,000 absentee ballots should have been received, 95% of them, by Monday.
Merrill said voters still have the option of voting in person at the polling places, which open tomorrow at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
“Don’t forget there are always still the polling places. This was just an option. The polling places are as secure as we can possibly make them,” Merrill said.
Merrill said no one will get a chance to vote twice. That’s because if a voter shows up at the polling place and they already submitted an absentee ballot that will be logged.
“If you put your ballot in the mail Friday and you have some concerns about it go down to the polling place and see if it got recorded,” Merrill said.
Even the seven towns that haven’t had internet access will be able to manually mark the lists to indicate which voters have voted by absentee.
Merrill said the power outage which impacted postal service even more makes it difficult to say how many absentee ballots have been returned.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order late Monday afternoon that says if a ballot was postmarked Aug. 11 and delivered by Aug. 13 it will still count in Tuesday’s primary.
“We didn’t want anyone to be disenfranchised due to difficulties related to the electric outage,” Lamont said.
Connecticut is not traditionally a so-called postmark state, so a ballot that was postmarked by Aug. 11 but is delivered on Aug. 12 would not have been counted before the executive order.
“Voters who cast their ballot on time, and had it postmarked by Election Day, should have their vote counted and shouldn’t be disenfranchised by delays in power outages, mail delivery, or historic storms,” Merrill said.
Anything delivered after Aug. 13 won’t be counted, according to the executive order.