ctnewsjunkie file photo
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

Connecticut permits residents to register to vote on Election Day, but anyone looking to beat the lines at the polls and register ahead of time has until the end of the day tomorrow to get it done.

In a Monday press release, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill urged potential voters to register online at myvote.ct.gov/register before the end of the day Tuesday or in person at their local town hall before 8 p.m. 

“I am working with the local election officials in each town to ensure that every eligible voter registers, and that every registered voter votes – we need you to register and then make a plan to vote,” she said.

Merrill said the state already has a “record breaking” number of registered voters this year. According to her office, there were just under 2.29 million registered voters as of Monday. That’s up more than 100,000 voters from the 2016 presidential election.

Every town will have “same-day” registration available but not at every polling place. Voters seeking to register on Election Day should check with their town offices for information on where to register and show up there early in case of long lines.

Voters are also casting absentee ballots in record numbers this year. Due to the pandemic, any registered voter can choose to vote by absentee ballot and as of Friday, more than 455,000 had already done so. That’s more than three times the number of people who voted absentee in 2016 and almost 20% of the total number of registered voters in the state.

More than 200,000 Connecticut residents had requested absentee ballots but not yet returned them as of Friday. Anyone still planning on voting by absentee ballot should probably hand-deliver their ballot to a dropbox at their local town hall rather than mailing it and hoping it arrives on time.

“The Post Office themselves have said leave at least a week to mail it in. At this point, you should probably think about dropping it off at the dropbox instead of using the mail and that’s the Post Office’s advice,” Gabe Rosenberg, Merrill’s communications director, said Monday.

Asked Thursday about his voting plans, Gov. Ned Lamont said he considered voting by absentee ballot this year to avoid possible exposure to the virus, but has decided to make the trip to the polls next week.

“I’ve thought about that since I’m 66, but I just think voting is such an important citizen’s obligation and right that I want to be able to go vote in person. If I can do anything to urge people to vote, I want you to vote. If you can, by absentee ballot. If you can, drop it off at the ballot box or go there and vote and socially distance, but that’s the message I want to send,” he said.

Connecticut residents shouldn’t get used to the option to vote by absentee ballot. The state constitution contains specific language that has prevented Democrats in the legislature from changing the law to allow voters to cast absentee ballots beyond a handful of “excuses.”

As the state’s top voting official, Merrill has led some efforts to change the constitution in order to allow voting by mail but it has been an uphill battle. Last year, the legislature considered a constitutional amendment to allow no-excuse absentee voting and early voting. Although the early voting portion of the amendment cleared its first hurdle in 2019, the absentee ballot language was dropped from the process. Meanwhile, in 2014, voters rejected a ballot question that would have cleared the way for no-excuse absentee voting.

This year’s choice, allowed by an executive order from Lamont in the midst of a public health crisis, represents a sort of test run of a policy Democrats have sought for years. And it’s come during a year when President Donald Trump has railed against vote-by-mail policies around the country.

When all the votes are counted, Rosenberg said he expects voters will warm to the idea of absentee voting. The process has already worked for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut voters this year, he said.

“I personally think that the genie is out of the bottle. What’s going to happen is people are going to be like, ‘What do you mean I can’t do this next time?’” Rosenberg said.