Secretary of the State Mark Kohler unveiled a new online system Friday that allows voters to request their absentee ballot electronically.
Voters can visit the secretary of the state’s website and click on the icon for the Online AB Application Portal, which then takes you to a page that asks you to verify your name, date of birth, driver’s license number and town. Through that portal you can request an absentee ballot after you verify your information.
After the information is input into the system, a day or two later, you will receive a ballot in the mail from your local town clerk.
The law enabling the new method was approved as part of the 2021 budget. Before last week a voter would have to download the application online and mail it or fill it out in-person at the town clerk’s office.
That method is still available to voters and both methods require the town clerk to mail you the absentee ballot to fill out.
Republican legislative leaders are questioning the timing of the portal.
“We understand that the authority to create this portal was given by Public Act 21-2 in June of 2021, and now 16 months later and only four weeks before an election you are rolling this product out without any public transparency or bipartisan legislative oversight, let alone notification to the public about its existence,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said in a letter to Kohler.
A spokesman for Kohler said a press release about the new portal is expected later this week.
But Republicans want a more public approach.
“We believe that a meeting with legislative stakeholders on both sides of the aisles to explain your plan or a public hearing with the Government Administration and Elections Committee is warranted immediately,” Kelly and Candelora wrote.
“Our state has struggled to roll out new technology,” the two continued.
In the few days that it’s been online some have struggled to use it even though they are entering the appropriate information as it appears on the voter rolls and with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Already we are hearing from individuals who are trying to fill out a request on the online portal and receiving error messages that their information could not be found. We wouldn’t have these questions had the system been developed with transparency and collaboration and not rushed at the last minute without advanced notice let alone a status report about its development,” Kelly and Candelora wrote.
A spokesman for Kohler said that’s why they did a soft launch of the system to make sure all the potential problems were worked out before the more public launch.
But Republicans are still concerned that people who didn’t request these ballots will end up receiving them, like what happened in Bridgeport recently.
“It is not lost on us that this also comes on the heels of a Connecticut court ordering a new Democratic primary in Bridgeport because of absentee ballot irregularities including reports of voters receiving absentee ballots they did not apply for and their applications signed by someone unknown to them. What guarantees can you give us that this will not happen with the new system?” Kelly and Candelora wrote.
The secretary of the state’s office said they are working to protect the integrity of Connecticut’s vote and implementing the new state law that requires them to launch the system.
“The more people we have engaged in the voting process, the better it is for democracy,” Kohler said. “Our new, online absentee ballot application removes one more barrier to voters’ participation. Registered voters with a Connecticut driver’s license can now go to myvote.ct.gov/GetMyAB to conveniently request an absentee ballot on their phone, tablet, or computer.”
Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, was one of the main proponents of the idea.
“Not too long ago, I was a college student trying my best to apply for an absentee ballot in Connecticut. Frankly it was a hassle, and too many of my peers decided to forgo the headache. This provision will help more young people step up and participate in the democratic process,” Haskell said upon passage of the bill.