What happens if you filled out an absentee ballot and forgot to sign the envelope before you dropped it in the box? In most towns your ballot would be disqualified and you would not be notified.
Windsor Democratic Town Chairman Adam Gutcheon raised concerns on Election Day when he said dozens of absentee ballots there were disqualified for this reason. Gutcheon said he requested a list of disqualified voters and was told by election officials that no list existed, leaving him no way to contact the affected voters.
“Basically we had votes that were thrown out, the voters will never know that they were disenfranchised and the rules around it were so ambiguous,” Gutcheon said.
But even if he had gotten a list of voters and notified them that their ballots had been disqualified, there would have been nothing the voters could do about it. According to the secretary of the state’s office, ballots processed on Election Day can’t be changed because the poll records reflect that the voter has cast a ballot already.
“Any absentee ballots that are rejected today, there’s nothing that can be done about it,” said Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for the secretary of the state.
The only situation in which a voter would have a chance to correct a disqualified absentee ballot would be if their town took advantage of a new law allowing local election officials to begin processing absentee ballots on the Friday before Election Day.
However, the new law was permissive—it did not require towns to start processing ballots in advance—and most towns chose not to participate. Only about 40 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities began processing absentee ballots ahead of time, according to the secretary of the state’s office.
“We chose not to do that, because it didn’t make any sense,” Enfield Republican Registrar of Voters Tom Kienzler said Tuesday. “It was just another security risk, another step in the procedure that wouldn’t be as transparent as opening them on Election Day and deciding whether they are valid or invalid ballots.”
Sue Armstrong, Democratic registrar of voters in Stafford, said election officials there declined to participate as well.
“We didn’t do it because we didn’t have the numbers,” she said. Stafford had 1,778 absentee ballots cast as of Tuesday.
“Once your ballot is cast, that’s the disadvantage of absentee balloting, because we don’t open it until Election Day, it’s not an option. There’s a manual that says if it’s not signed it’s rejected. Period,” she said.
Cease and Desist
In another part of the state, the Elections Enforcement Commission issued a cease and desist order against the Town Clerk in Stamford for failing to issue emergency absentee ballots to voters who have COVID-19 or were forced to quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19.
The SEEC held an emergency meeting to approve the cease and desist order and refer it to the Attorney General for further action.
The Stamford Town Clerk says the cease and desist was withdrawn and never filed in court when it decided to comply.
Posted by Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission on Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Christine Stuart contributed to this report