New guidance on absentee ballots creates confusion for town clerks ahead of Election Day

Politics

Conn. (WTNH) — New guidance from the Secretary of the State’s office is causing confusion and frustration. Election officials are now working overtime.

Marguerite Philips the Bloomfield Town Clerk says in all of her career she could have never imagined the tedious position election officials are now in. “It’s an archaic way of doing paper absentee ballots. It’s been a journey.”

The journey is far from over.

41 towns will be opening the outer absentee ballot envelope early. Governor Ned Lamont signed a last minute executive order to accommodate towns like Middletown which missed the legal deadline to notify the state they were processing ballots early.

Add to that new guidance from the Secretary of the State’s office four days before a Presidential election, unbeknown to those who wrote the law.

State Senator Len Fasano the Republican Minority Leader is frustrated with the Secretary of the State, “She’s created mass confusion now.”

Pre-processing must be conducted in a location open to the public. If a voter has not signed the inner envelope, the ballot is rejected.

The new memo states: “The name of such voter shall be read out loud in a sufficient tone to allow those present to hear such name.”  

“…. that voter may appear at the polls on election day and cast a ballot in person.”

“Although not required, local officials may use their best efforts to notify voters of the defect…”

“Whose gonna call the unaffiliated and independent? There are holes in this that you could drive a Mack truck through,” said Senator Len Fasano.

It’s unclear why the guidance wasn’t communicated earlier.

Ten days ago, Secretary Denise Merrill talked about this exact scenario during a News 8 exclusive.

“They still have time to what we call ‘CURE’ the ballot let the voter know, ‘Whoops, you didn’t sign it or it wasn’t sealed one of these things.’ They could still call the voter and let them know their vote needed to be redone, or whatever they chose to do about that.”

Fasano says lawmakers purposely left out a “Cure” in the law so they would not create an unfair hardship on election officials.

News 8 Senior Political Correspondent Jodi Latina asked Fasano, “Could we have a scenario where there are 41 towns in the state who allow voters to correct a mistake and the others don’t?”

Fasano answered,” Yes and that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Marguerite Philips’ team will now come up with a plan. She says in the 36 years since she’s been on the job she has never seen a procedure added like this.

“We will be working morning noon and night to get that done.”

Absentee ballots must be handed in, or dropped in the ballot drop box by 8 pm on Election Day.

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