Decision 2020

Preventing Double Voting

The Town Clerk's Association gave NBC Connecticut Investigates a look inside the absentee ballot process and how they prevent anyone from submitting two ballots.

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The expansion of absentee voting due to the pandemic has more than quadrupled the number of people voting that way in Connecticut compared to the last presidential election.

The state said more than 567,000 voters have returned absentee ballots so far in Connecticut.

It has left some to ask - how will election officials prevent people from using absentee ballots and showing up at the polls to vote again?

Hartford activist Bishop John Selders said he is concerned about voter suppression, not as much people trying to vote twice - once by absentee ballot, and again at the polls.

“I don’t want to dismiss the concern it’s a very real concern.  Will people be able to double vote?”  Selders asked.

Voting irregularities have been rare in Connecticut.  State elections enforcement data has shown over the past 45 years it has investigated just 119 allegations of irregularities including those involving absentee voting, with 21 resulting in prosecutions, fines, or warnings. 

Election administrators on the state and local level remain focused on preventing voter fraud in this high-stakes election year.  The president of the Connecticut Town Clerk’s Association offered an inside look at what she and her staff do to prevent someone from voting absentee and in person.

“It has been used for many years and has prevented people from double voting," Windsor Town Clerk Anna Posniak said.

Posniak explained absentee ballots received before Election Day are kept by town clerks under lock and key.

You must follow a certain set of steps to ensure that your absentee ballot will be counted.

Just prior to being locked away, the ballot gets processed, meaning staff scans the outside envelope of the absentee ballot, which has a bar code on it.  It tells the clerks whose absentee ballot it is.  The clerk then puts a date stamp on the ballot, signs it, and enters it in the state system as “returned”.

The voter’s name gets put in a report of people voting absentee.

Those reports are given to local registrars of voters.  Posniak said they “…then go through the process of checking each absentee ballot against the official checklist.  They will put an a next to the voter’s name, which will prevent them from going to the polls and voting in person.

Anyone with an “A” next to their name on the official voter checklist who has voted absentee before election day, and then tries to vote at the polls, will be turned away.

 As far as absentee ballots received on Election Day, clerks will secure them and store them separately, Posniak explained.

Once the polls close, voting officials will compare absentee ballots received on Election Day to the official voter checklist.  If someone voted absentee and in person, the Election Day absentee ballot will be rejected. 

After that, absentee ballots received on Election Day that were not rejected will be added to the vote tally.

Bishop Selders said despite the concerns he is confident in the absentee ballot system and is encouraging people to feel the same. 

“I’ve asked all the hard questions.  I’ve talked to a number of town clerks and registrars of voters both here and Hartford but across the state.  I’m convinced they got this down. "

It is a process, that because of the groundswell of people voting absentee this year, could mean official results in many Connecticut towns and cities will not be known until after election day. 

The clerk’s association said many towns and cities have beefed up their election staffs to assist with the vote count.

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