HARTFORD, CT — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she is considering sending an absentee ballot application for the Aug. 11 primary to every Connecticut voter who is registered with one of the two major political parties.
Connecticut doesn’t have a “no excuse” absentee ballots, but Gov. Ned Lamont could issue an executive order that temporarily allows people to vote by absentee ballot because it would allow them to use the pandemic as the excuse.
Merrill has suggested erasing the words “his or her” before the word “illness,” as an “elegant” solution to the current situation. Merrill said that someone could say they were unable to get to the polls due to “illness,” which could broadly mean COVID-19 and the public health crisis.
“There are people panicked at the idea they would have to go out during a pandemic just to vote,” Merrill said.
By removing “his or her” it would make reference to illness and the general pandemic itself, she said last week.
Lamont has postponed but not canceled the presidential primary, which will now be held the same day as the primaries for state representative and state senator.
Asked about his plans for handling it, “I’m not sure that people over the age of 65 or 70,” would want to go to the polls, Lamont said Friday. “I think they might still be in a stay-safe, stay home mode unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
He said he would like to find alternatives at least for that age group so they don’t have to go to the polls on Aug. 11.
However, he has not said what he plans to do about the situation.
“We’re working on that right now as we speak,” Lamont said.
On Sunday there were 25,269 laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in Connecticut and 1,924 associated deaths.
Merrill said she understands there’s a concern among the town clerks about how to handle an increased number of absentee ballots.
Typically, 5 to 8% of the ballots are absentee and there’s a lot of work that goes into the absentee ballot for local election officials.
First, voters must submit an absentee ballot application and attest to the fact that they will not be in the state or are unable to vote in person on the day of the election. The clerk must then send them a ballot.
When a ballot is returned there are two envelopes and “a lot of mistakes made,” Merrill said.
She said the clerks must call the voter if they fail to fill out information or verify their address.
“It’s very labor intensive,” Merrill said.
There’s also a concern about the amount of work at a time when town halls across the state are closed. However, Merrill said they received federal funding to help make this happen.
She said they could have a drop off for absentee ballot applications outside of town halls and figure out a way for town clerks to do this without having to go inside town hall.
Merrill also fears that no one will want to work at the polls.
She said they are helping to recruit a new generation of poll workers because no one over the age of 65 is going to want to work at the polls this year.