Decision 2020

Election Results Could Be Delayed for Days Due to High Absentee Ballot Returns

Local registrars aren't even allowed to start counting absentee ballots received on Election Day until after the polls close.

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Meredith Gervais said she didn’t even consider voting absentee this year.

“I know what I’m doing when I go in, in person, circle, fill in the dots, slide it in, see you later, I feel confident about that,” said the Wallingford woman.

However, her town has already received 6,500 absentee ballots.  That’s three times more than past presidential elections.

“We may have as many as 11,000 or 12,000 by the time this is over and we usually have 2,000,” said Wallingford’s Republican Registrar Joan Ives-Parisi.

The Brunells, also of Wallingford, have been voting by absentee from their Florida home for years, but never like they did on Monday, dropping it in a ballot box in front of town hall.

“We just thought it was safer, and easier, and  perhaps less contentious.  I don’t know what’s going to happen on that day,” explained Carole Brunell.  “I would be a little skeptical with the mail only because of issues that have arisen,” she explained of her decision.

“I assume it’s going to be hard to tally up everything from in-person, ballots, mail,” Gervais surmised.

In fact, every registrar in the state now has an extra two days to tally their results (from 48 hours to 96 hours), to accommodate for the increase in absentee balloting.  Because a weekend falls during that timeline the results of this election may not be available in some places until six days after the election, Monday, November 9.

“I think the expectation in the public is, ‘oh we’re going to know right away,’ and I think this year it’s not going to be so true,” said the Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. "We have to be careful.  We have to make sure every ballot is counted and counted accurately, and that takes some time."

Ballots received after 5 p.m. the day before the election aren’t allowed to be counted until the polls close.  The registrars in both South Windsor and Wallingford said they won’t even begin counting those absentee ballots (received after 5 p.m. the day before the election and those dropped off on Election Day) until the day after the election.

"To ensure that someone didn’t go to the polling location, vote in person, and put their ballot in the ballot box that day," explained Sue Larsen, who is the Democratic Registrar of Voters in South Windsor and also president of the Registrar of Voters Association of Connecticut.

Ives-Parisi noted that it could take ten times longer to count the votes in Wallingford this election.

“It’s going to be a longer process this year, absolutely,” she said.

Ives-Parisi said her town has hired twice as many volunteers and paid poll workers, an extra 30 to 40 people this year to cross check in person voting on Election Day and those absentee ballots in the days after the election

They will be allowed to get a jump start by opening the outer envelopes on October 30.  In a COVID-related move, state lawmakers changed the rule, which originally stated ballots couldn’t be open until Election Day, during a special session this summer.

“That gives them Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to open the outer envelopes and get it ready for Election Day on Tuesday to start the inner envelope and counting of the ballots on Election Day,” explained Larsen.

Counting of the ballots will also start at 6 a.m. on Election Day instead of 10 a.m.

If you turned in an absentee ballot, there should be an "a" next to your name if you try to vote in person.  That signifies that your ballot has already been received.

Conversely, absentee ballots received either through the mail or the drop box the day of the election will be cross-checked with the poll book to make sure you didn't head to the polls.

"I know a lot of people are doing that voter look-up tool and if they don’t see that their ballot was received they’re going to get really nervous and go to the polls,” said Larsen. "It's not an intent to vote twice, they just want to make sure one counts, but on our end we've got to make sure it's only once."

You can check with your town clerk or the Secretary of the State’s website to see if your ballot was received, but if you want to know whether your vote was counted you’ll have to pick up the phone There’s no online system for checking and that information won't officially get transferred to the Secretary of the State until after November 9.

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