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New Haven Stepping Up Election Staff Ahead of Ballot Surge

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“I was about to stick it in the envelope to send in and I looked, and I saw that my name wasn’t on the envelope.”

New Haven voter Stephen Wizner was taking one last look over his ballot when he noticed “Envelope B” had someone else’s label with name and voter identification bar code. He and his wife also noticed something else.

“My wife’s was another person’s name in another neighborhood in New Haven, nowhere near here,” said Wizner.

We asked City Town Clerk Michael Smart about the error, and he confirmed there have been a handful of ballots with the wrong labels on the back of Envelope B, but they’re working on a fix.

“As far as I know, most of them have been taken care of already,” said Smart.

Smart said they’re sending out new ones, and anyone who notices any types of errors with their ballots should contact the Clerk’s Office. He said they’ll fix it within 24 hours.

“We understand folks are really eager to vote, they want to exercise their right to vote, they want to make sure they have the proper information and it’s our job to make sure that happens,” said Smart. “And in the event there’s a mistake, mistakes happen, it’s our job to correct it and get it back to them as soon as possible.”

He urges voters to double-check the back of Envelope B, sign it and stick it inside Envelope C. No signature could disqualify your ballot.

"I was definitely doing that mental checklist just now to make sure that it would be counted," said Brooke Hirsheimer, who was one of several people voting Friday afternoon.

"My word of advice is before you send your ballot back, look at the white envelope that they have you put it in and make sure your name is on it and not someone else’s," said Wizner.

The city has 55,000 registered voters and so far, 12,000 have requested absentee ballots. Smart said they’re expecting a 64% voter turnout in absentee ballots, which he calls historic.

“We brought on as of Wednesday 10 additional members to facilitate and push out the applications,” said Smart.

The deadline for absentee ballot applications is Nov. 2 and they’re still coming, many to drop boxes outside the city clerk’s office. Completed ballots are also being cast in the boxes and the deadline is 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

“Based on our experience just now, I feel really safe and good about it and I’m glad people have the option to vote from home,” said Hirsheimer.

“Connecticut usually has 6% or so of folks voting absentee ballot,” said Deputy Secretary of State Scott Bates. “For the primary, it was 66% so it’s like a whole new voting system.”

Last month, the state made $2.3 million available in grants to support local elections both in person and by absentee.

“In recognition of the fact that we knew town clerks across the state would have a new burden, we have sent funding to each town and municipality,” said Bates.  

New Haven will get $93,000 to support same-day voter registration, polling location staffing and absentee ballot processing.

“Next week we plan to bring on another five or six people, whatever we need to do to keep that push going,” said Smart.

The money also covers postage. The state said some municipalities are using older envelopes that require stamps. They tell us you can mail those without postage and the town picks up the cost. Or, they say, use a ballot dropbox.

“That makes sure that your vote is there, and town officials are taking it in and processing,” said Bates. “Already I think over a hundred thousand absentee ballots are in process.”

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