Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has released Connecticut’s plan for the Aug. 11 primary and Nov. 3 general elections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merrill said she is taking action to ensure that access to voting is a reality for all voters, no matter the circumstances.
“The people of Connecticut should not have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” Merrill stated. “The current circumstances of this pandemic make that choice a reality for many of our fellow citizens.”
COVID-19, a virus that passes via direct person-to-person contact, often from asymptomatic people, is a global pandemic that creates particular challenges for election administration.
The comprehensive plan is attached and may be found at myvote.ct.gov/2020Plan.
It includes in-person polling, according to strict health and safety requirements; an expansion of absentee voting, poll worker training and a detailed list of cyber security measures. The Connecticut National Guard, at the direction of the Secretary of the State, will perform a high-level assessment of the cybersecurity posture of each town as it relates to their election infrastructure.
Working with public health officials, Merrill’s office will require all municipalities to submit a plan for the primary and general elections in the 2020 election cycle that includes a list of polling locations, staffing levels for each polling location, an identified list of poll workers and moderators ready to work on election day, list of cleaning and safety products required, and an emergency plan.
Municipalities that complete their Safe Polls Plan will be eligible for a Safe Polls Grant to be applied to meet the costs incurred to conduct an election in a pandemic environment. These expenses, as vetted by public health officials, include cleaning and safety products and additional personnel if necessary.
The Office of the Secretary of the State will provide an absentee ballot application to all eligible voters for the primary and general elections. After processing by their town clerks, those who request absentee ballots will be provided with absentee ballots via a mail house contracted by the Office of the Secretary of the State.
Secure drop boxes will be provided to every municipality so that absentee ballots may be deposited by voters. The Secretary of the State will offer a grant program to meet extra costs for processing and personnel which might be required for the town clerks due to increased demand for absentee ballots.
Prepaid postage will be provided so that neither voters nor municipalities have to pay to mail absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications back and forth.
Merrill’s office will lead a public information campaign, with public health officials and state and local election officials, to make voters aware of the Safe Polls program.
“Any voter who chooses to vote in a polling place should be able to do so knowing that we have taken every action we could to make that polling place as safe as possible,” Merrill stated.