Calls for mail-in voting as city halls remain closed, registrars of voters work remotely amid pandemic

Coronavirus

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — With city and town hall employees working remotely, and most residents self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, the calls are getting louder for everybody to be able to mail in their votes during the next election or primary if they want to. 

The days of long lines at polling places may soon be a thing of the past, at least for now. 

In New London, city hall remains closed to the public, as registrars of voters across the state continue to work remotely and this pandemic continues to concern many.

This could mean more absentee ballots and changes to state law to allow more people to be able to do this. And it could also mean more work for local registrars of voters. 

A group of forty organizations is calling on Governor Ned Lamont to issue an executive order which would make it easier for anyone to vote through the mail instead of in-person during this pandemic.

“People should not have to put their lives on the line in order to be able to vote,” said Tom Swan, Executive Director, CCAG, CT Citizen Action Group.

The group of organizations is looking for a change to the state statute regarding who can use an absentee ballot. One reason listed now is due to “his or her illness.” They want the words, “his or her” removed.

“We need the governor and possibly the legislature for the general election to change those three words in order to give people the right to vote,” said Swan.

New London’s Democratic Registrar of Voters, Bill Geising, expects more people will try to use absentee ballots claiming illness whether the law is changed or not for the upcoming presidential primaries and general election.

“We’re hoping for that they give us some time, a day or so before that, to be able to do counting of a lot that have come in especially if we’re figuring over 50% or more will be coming in as absentees,” said Geising.

The group calling for mail-in voting also wants people to be able to apply for absentee ballots online. Right now, the forms are available on-line but have to be printed and mailed in. 

If residents can’t get an application online they can call the number posted on the outside of New London city hall and the registrar of voters will make an appointment to come down there to meet them.

“I do understand that there is a plan at this point, everybody who is eligible to vote in the primary, democrat and republican, will be getting an absentee ballot application sent to them,” said Geising. 

That plan is still being considered by the state, as are ways to keep those who want to vote in-person safe.

“We’re trying to see if we can get enough pens that will able to be given to all the different polling places and people can keep the pen,” said Geising.

They’ll also try to keep voters a safe social distance apart. 

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