Absentee ballot application
The absentee ballot application reads that you must put in an excuse to make use of your absentee ballot application. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Town clerks in every Connecticut municipality will receive a grant of at least $1,000 to help process and count absentee ballots during the general election in November, the secretary of the state’s office announced Tuesday. In a press release, Secretary of the State Mark Kohler said that a total of about $1 million will be sent to towns to support local election officials in processing what is expected to be an increased number of absentee ballots as a result of recent changes to state law, making it easier for residents to vote by mail.

“[W]ith the unprecedented number of absentee ballots returned in 2020 and the recent expansion of the eligibility for absentee balloting, I don’t believe that towns have enough financial support going forward, state and federal officials should step it up and fully fund elections,” Kohler said.

Grant amounts will be federally funded and will vary based on the number of absentee ballots each town received in both the 2018 and 2020 elections. They range from a high of $34,750 in Stamford, where more than 23,500 voters cast absentee ballots in 2020, to a minimum of $1,000 in around 20 towns where absentee ballot utilization was low in the two elections.

Until 2020, absentee ballot usage was tightly restricted in Connecticut and available only to voters who qualified for a handful of specific excuses. That changed when policymakers made them available to all voters in an effort to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus at the polls.

A record number of Connecticut voters, nearly 665,600, cast absentee ballot in 2020, up from about 88,600 in 2018. Since then, the state legislature has taken steps to make the ballots easier to obtain. For instance, any voter who is unable to get to the polls because they are out of town or fearful of contracting illnesses will be eligible to vote by mail in November.

In a statement, Berlin Town Clerk Kate Wall, president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, said the group was grateful for the assistance.

“Providing these funds to cover a portion of the costs for absentee ballots will ensure that town clerks throughout the state have the resources necessary to ensure voters have access to absentee ballots,” Wall said.