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Paul Bass/ New Haven Independent
Maritza Gant of the Registrar of Voters Office signs up Yale graduate student Atticus Mellor-Goldman as a steady stream of voters showed up outside 200 Orange St. on deadline day. (Paul Bass/ New Haven Independent)

The clock’s ticking: Complete and return your absentee ballot now, preferably at a special downtown box. Or make your Election Day “plan” for voting in person.

Then sit tight — and don’t expect to know the outcome before going to sleep on Nov. 3.

Meanwhile, “teams” of lawyers will make sure every vote will count, even if President Trump goes to court to short-circuit the process.

City and Connecticut officials delivered those messages Tuesday in downtown New Haven.

Amid widespread fears of election chaos, they urged people to take steps to prevent chaos.

They spoke one week before Election Day. They spoke also on the deadline day for registering in advance to vote for this election.

People can also register and vote the same day of the election in person, through “Election Day Registration” (EDR). (EDR has been a mess in New Haven in the past. Mayor Justin Elicker announced that the city has arranged for 20 computer stations to be staffed next Tuesday on the second floor of City Hall, and for first-floor offices to be closed in order to free up social-distancing room, in order to avoid another debilitating crush and hours-long waits.

With only seven days to go before the election, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill urged people not to count on the mail to submit absentee ballots. If they don’t arrive to the city/town clerk’s office by the end Nov. 3, they won’t count. And the mail’s been slow. Merrill urged people instead to visit dedicated ballot boxes — like the ones in front of 200 Orange St. — and submit them there.

“Once they get in that ballot box, they will get counted,” promised Merrill, who spoke alongside Elicker and Democratic U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal at a Tuesday afternoon press conference outside City Hall.

Meanwhile, voters have expressed confusion about how to fill out those absentee ballots. With three envelopes and multiple spots to fill out, along with some incorrectly mailed ballots, they have contacted the Independent for basic how-to guidance. City/Town Clerk Michael Smart responded by offering a step-by-step demonstration of how to fill out the absentee ballots. You can watch it in the video at the top of this story.

Tuesday’s press conference took place against a backdrop of fears about what will happen once the polls close next Tuesday. President Trump has warned he may not accept results as valid if the historic flood of absentee ballots aren’t all counted by the end of Tuesday night, and has vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. Fears about what will happen next intensified Tuesday after disclosure of a footnote that Justice Brett Kavanagh wrote to a ruling this week, seconding Trump’s suggestion that votes counted after Nov. 3 might not be considered legitimate.

Paul Bass / New Haven Independent
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (Paul Bass / New Haven Independent)

At the press conference, Merrill and the senators vowed that the government will ensure that vigilante “poll checking” squads summoned by the Trump campaign will not be allowed to intimidate voters at the polls.

Blumenthal, meanwhile, promised to grill the CEOs of Apple, Alphabet/Google, and Facebook at a Wednesday Senate Commerce Committee hearing about their plans to stop the flow of election disinformation. a(Based on what he learned at a classified intelligence hearing, he said, “What the Russians are doing this year makes 2016 look like child’s play.”)

Blumenthal also assured voters that Democrats have prepared for challenges to the vote-counting process to ensure that, as allowed under law, all ballots can be counted even if that takes days.

“Here’s a news flash: The president doesn’t have unlimited power. He is not king. He cannot stop the counting of votes,” Blumenthal declared.

“We have teams of lawyers. I’ve worked with the Biden campaign on some of this strategy. They are in every state where there may be a contest legally. They are ready to go into state court, federal court. The courts are not all populated by Trump appointees. I think ultimately this vote will be decided in the ballot box, not the courts. So people should trust the system and go vote.”

Murphy and Merrill, meanwhile, cautioned people not to expect enough votes to be counted by the end of election night to know who won the presidential election or other major races.

“And that’s OK,” Murphy said. “Because in this country, we count all the votes.”

Whether or not that turns out to be true — or these scenarios come into play — Tuesday’s message was clear: Officials want voters to have enough faith in the system to participate and not give up.

The senators referred people to this new report detailing what Americans can expect to happen, and not happen, on Election Day and in subsequent vote-counting, state by state.

Paul Bass / New Haven Independent
Michael Smart helps a voter dropping off a ballot Tuesday. (Paul Bass / New Haven Independent)