Some polling places were without power, WiFi just hours before August primary

Politics

(WTNH) — Eversource confirmed with News 8 Tuesday morning that power has been restored to all polling places affected by Tropical Storm Isaias. This will make the in-person voting process less challenging than it could have been.

On the eve of the August primary, half a dozen polling places in Fairfield County had no power, and nearly the same amount in Eastern Connecticut has no WiFi.

Candidates have been campaigning in masks during this new normal because of COVID-19. Utility crews have been frantically trying to restore power and WiFi to polling places.

The day before the primary, News 8 spoke with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who is the chief election officer in Connecticut.

She said voting machines have been tested, and absentee ballots are continuing to come in. For the first time in state history, Connecticut’s chief election officer mailed out more than one million applications to all active voters — 300,000 requested absentee ballots for the August primary.

During normal times, eight percent of voters will cast a ballot absentee. The pandemic could push that number to triple the amount. Add to that a tropical storm, which has left many polling places without power or WiFi.

“Now, I’m not sure what to predict,” Merrill said.

As late as Monday, applications for ballots were still being taken in at local town clerk offices, while some absentee ballots are literally still with the U.S. Postal Service and on their way to town halls.

“I have concerns about how many still might be outstanding,” she said. “Let’s hope by the end of today we will know more about what is still out there.”

In Middletown, voters were turning in their absentee ballots at the designated boxes, but many across the state say they still haven’t received theirs. Some Middletown voters said they received their ballots only Monday morning, very close to the deadline.

On Monday, Governor Ned Lamont announced a new executive order allowing voters to have their absentee ballot postmarked by election day and it will be counted after the close of polls on election night at 8 p.m.

Ballots can be tracked online.

State Senator Len Fasano said he has major concerns. There have been several critical issues with the vendor used to print and mail ballots.

“She is the one causing the problem,” he said of Merrill. “She is number one guilty of disenfranchising voters. As it stands today, those who didn’t receive applications, those who saw the applications come into deceased voters or people who didn’t even live in the house, are questioning ‘what that does to my vote?’ And now, people still can’t get their ballots.”

Extra workers have been hired. Each town is required to file a safe voting plan and an emergency back up. Results may not be known for days.

The new law passed in special session gives local election officials 48 hours from midnight on election day to file the total number of votes for each candidate.

To keep polling locations safe, $100k worth of masks and hand sanitizer will be available.

“It’s an unusual situation,” Merrill said. “People have a right to vote and we can’t disenfranchise anyone, but certainly we are urging everyone to wear a mask.”

Polls open at 6 a.m. However, some feel in-person voting won’t have a great turnout.

“I don’t know how many are going to come out,” said Middletown resident, John Turro. “Probably won’t be as good as it would be in November.” 

“I actually sent the application about a month ago, and I was kinda afraid that I wasn’t going to get it, so I was willing to go to the voting place tomorrow if I didn’t get it,” added Middletown resident, Sonia McRoberts.

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