HARTFORD, CT —From an historic power outage to a global pandemic, 2020 has already also tested Connecticut’s voting system.
For the first time, voters in the presidential preference primary were able to apply for absentee ballots to avoid polling places during a pandemic. There are 18 primaries in the state from Congress to state representative and registrar of voters.
As if things were not complicated enough, a power outage may have delayed the delivery of ballots and some Republican lawmakers believe the process was bungled by the hiring of a mail house to help send out hundreds of thousands of ballots on behalf of town clerks.
“This primary was being hailed as a test of our ability to manage high volumes of mailed ballots and so far it has been a failure,” House Republican Leader Themis Klarides and Deputy Leader Vincent Candelora said. “We argued for better management from the beginning and now we are forced to go into overtime on voting and counting the ballots. All of this could have, and should have, been avoided.”
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 wouldn’t 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.
Registrars have 48 hours to report the official results of the primary to the Secretary of the State’s office.
Election officials are recommending that voters return their absentee ballots to the ballot box outside their town halls by 8 p.m. Tuesday if they want their vote to count in this presidential preference primary.
Election officials are encouraging voters to check online to see if their absentee ballot has been received by going to www.myvote.ct.gov\lookup. Voters can find out if their absentee ballot has been received, and they can also verify their polling place.
However, that won’t be possible yet in seven towns that have no internet access to enter the absentee ballots. Union, Sterling, Plainfield, Colebrook, Colchester, Ashford and Salem have no internet access. And there are seven polling places, mostly in Fairfield County, that are on generator power.
“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,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Monday.
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.
Any ballot that arrives after 8 p.m. tomorrow will be discarded.
Merrill said the more than 300,000 absentee ballots should have been received by voters by Monday. But they don’t know yet how many have been returned because they are being processed.
“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,” she said.
Merrill said voters still have the option of voting in person at the polling places which open 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,” Merrill said. “The polling places are as secure as we can possibly make them.”