HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont inked an executive order Thursday that will give a do-over to election officials in 19 Connecticut cities and towns who missed the deadline last week to declare their desire to begin opening absentee ballots early.
Eighteen towns told Secretary of the State Denise Merrill before the Oct. 24 deadline that they planned to open the outer envelope of the absentee ballots early. A total of 19 cities and towns gave notice too late and would not have been able to start processing absentee ballots early if not for Lamont’s executive order.
The General Assembly passed legislation that allows election officials to open the outer envelope of the absentee ballot starting at 5 p.m. today. Town clerks have received more than 567,000 absentee ballots.
“Five days before the election the governor had to issue an executive order to allow for ballots to be opened so that people who voted by absentee can have their votes properly counted,’’ House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said. “Uncertainty remained, after months of lobbying by Secretary Merrill, which makes it harder to deliver clean elections in the minds’ of voters.’’
Gabe Rosenberg, Merrill’s legal counsel and communications director, said election officials were given plenty of time and information about the deadline.
“There is literally nothing that the House Republican leadership won’t politicize for their own political gain and it’s a shame because it’s a disservice to the voters,” Rosenberg said Thursday.
Election officials won’t be allowed to start counting the absentee ballots until 6 a.m. on Nov. 3. But they can start pre-processing the absentee ballots after 5 p.m. today.
“As that deadline came about, many towns realized that they wanted to exercise that right,” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said Thursday.
He said Merrill contacted the governor’s office Wednesday and they consulted with Attorney General William Tong’s office about the executive order, which was signed Thursday.
Connecticut has seen an unprecedented number of voters register to vote. As of Wednesday, there are 2.3 million voters in Connecticut.
“It is so exciting to see a record-breaking number of Connecticut voters, especially younger voters, set to make their voices heard on Tuesday,” Merrill said. “We are poised to see the largest number of voters participating in a Connecticut election ever, despite the 2020 election being held under the most challenging circumstances in a century.
More than 700,000 new registrations have been recorded since 2016, compared to 450,000 from 2012-2016, and 250,000 from 2008 to 2012.