Absentee vote in Connecticut set to be heavy again for November 2 municipal election | Connecticut and region

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Around the same time last year, the secretary of the state office mailed out all postal ballot requests to voters, and city clerks began processing documents received en masse.

In 2020, however, city clerks received help in the form of additional staff paid for with federal pandemic funds. In 2021, they won’t have the extra money despite the extra work expected thanks to a change in Connecticut’s postal voting laws and the ongoing pandemic.

The outcome of this year’s mail-in ballot process that began on Friday: Voters, themselves, must apply for a mail-in vote for the November 2 municipal elections and fear of catching or spreading COVID-19 is one of the usual reasons they can cite. This will likely mean another election with a high rate of use of postal ballots.

While Friday marked the day people could start applying for ballots, there is no deadline for voters to apply. But state election officials warn there are practical deadlines to consider as city clerks must receive the ballots before 8 p.m. on election day.

Those ballot boxes that were used last year, where people could leave their voter applications and postal ballots, are in use again this year.

If election affairs are done in person, either through a drop-box, or with the city clerk or poll clerks, timing is not a major issue. However, Secretary of State Denise Merrill’s spokesperson Gabe Rosenberg has warned voters not to wait too long if they mail their ballots.

“You can no longer trust the mail,” he said, noting that the slowdown in the US Postal Service’s processes affects all mail, not just election-related mail.

While nominations were sent out to all eligible voters in the state last year, the cost was covered by federal funding through the $ 2.2 trillion aid, relief act. and the economic values ​​of the coronavirus, or the CARES law.

“It was a unique situation,” Rosenberg said this week.

While there is no financial aid for the cities this year, Rosenberg noted that this was normal except for last year.

By law, the CARES 2020 law funding was to be used last year in the presidential election or it should have been repaid, Rosenberg said.

“It’s not like we could have saved some for 2021. We couldn’t have had it,” he said, adding that the secretary of the state office is supporting state funding. or federal for municipalities for elections.

“If they don’t have enough money to pay for their elections, they’re going to have to raise taxes, and that’s not an ideal situation,” Rosenberg said. “So should the federal government fund the elections like it did in 2020? Probably yes. If it’s not them, then maybe the state should take on some of that election financing role. “

An example of where additional funding could be beneficial is in Manchester, where City Clerk Joseph Camposeo said voters were much more involved last year because of how easily they were able to vote.

“It seems to me that there is an interest in people to continue down this path – postal voting as a means of efficiency,” he said.

Manchester errs on the side of caution and prints nearly 10,000 mail-in ballots, representing around 27% of the city’s electoral population, compared to between 3,000 and 4,000 mail-in ballots in a municipal election normal.

Before the widespread use of postal ballots, Manchester generally printed enough postal ballots for between 8% and 10% of voters, Camposeo said.

To put into context the money needed to cover the printing, folding and shipping costs associated with the postal ballots, Manchester spent more than $ 3,000 in the 2020 primary, in relation to an election typical municipal costs during which the costs are only a few hundred dollars.

While last year’s expenses were reimbursed by the federal government, Camposeo is optimistic that municipalities could benefit from assistance, given that the emergency powers and decrees of Governor Ned Lamont linked to voting security during the pandemic remain in place.

“We are likely to see financial support from the federal government for some COVID-related treatments, in which elections and postal voting play out,” Camposeo said.

Either way, he said, Manchester includes funding in its local budget for printing and binding all city documents, and the budget should not come under major pressure this year, especially because municipal elections tend to see lower voter turnout.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State continues to push for measures that make it easier to vote in all elections.

“It seems pretty clear that some of the things we’ve done for 2020 alone are good things we should be doing for every election,” Rosenberg said.

For the first time ever, anyone who chose to vote by mail was able to do so last year, with around a third of all voters choosing to do so.

Despite the concerns of some, “the world has not fallen apart,” said Rosenberg.

Another effort made possible by one-time federal funding last year, he said, was that the state was able to hire an expert on internet disinformation to root it out before it started. to spread, as well as disseminate accurate information via paid advertising.

“Those two things made a huge difference,” Rosenberg said. “To me, at least, it seems pretty clear that this is something we should be doing in every election,” but “without funding we can’t do it”.

The state legislature extended many voting changes made due to the pandemic, including making city hall drop-off boxes permanent, Rosenberg said.

A technical change intended to prevent voters from unknowingly breaking election laws also remains in place – allowing voters to cancel their postal ballots until 5 p.m. on the Friday before election day.

Likewise, municipal clerks are able to open the outer envelope of postal ballots at the same time to determine the legitimacy of the inner envelope in order to speed up the counting process. Municipalities must make it known if they choose to open the outer envelope earlier, which is voluntary.

An earlier measure that is not underway is to count the votes that have been stamped and turned over to city clerks within a certain time frame. Rosenberg said this was only available during the 2020 primary and was put in place in part by the threat of Tropical Storm Isaias.

During the session, Eric can be found at the Capitol in Hartford, reporting the information readers want and need to know. For information and updates on legislation, politicians, committees and commissions that affect the entire state of Connecticut, follow Eric on Twitter: @BednerEric.



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