The universe of early voters is expanding to include Easton. Local voters are taking advantage of the absentee ballot option afforded them during the Covid-19 pandemic in record numbers.
Local voters as of Friday had applied for 1,764 absentee ballots, and 741 had been returned. By comparison, for the 2016 Presidential Election, Eastonites requested 489 absentee ballots and returned 458, according to Town Clerk Christine Halloran.
Two weeks remain until Election Day, Nov. 3. In-person voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School, 515 Morehouse Road, the town’s one and only polling place.
Absentee ballots must be received by the Town Clerk’s Office on Election Day via the United States Postal Service or deposited into the Official Ballot Box across from the Easton Police Department. Halloran will collect the final ballots and close down the ballot box at 8 p.m.
“I strongly encourage voters to use the Official Ballot Box to return their absentee ballots,” Halloran said. She and the two assistant town clerks are the only authorized parties with access to the ballot box.
The State of Connecticut provided each municipality with an official absentee ballot drop box to provide voters with a safe and trusted method for contactless delivery of their absentee ballot during the pandemic.
The Town of Easton installed its Official Ballot Box directly across from the Police Department entrance of Town Hall at 691 Morehouse Road (Easton Public Library side of the road) along the sidewalk and easily accessible from the library parking lot.
The box is available 24/7 for drop off of absentee ballot applications or absentee ballots for Easton only. The box is monitored by surveillance cameras in the Police Department. Voters from other municipalities must use the ballot box for their own town or city. Each voter must deposit their own absentee ballot only.
Voters must not drop off their application or ballot in the Town Hall drop box or with any other Town Department, Halloran cautioned. To qualify as the “mail” option, they must use the Official Ballot Box or send it via USPS or another mail service for valid delivery and counting.
All absentee ballots shall be counted on Election Day, according to the rules for absentee voting established by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
Merrill released a comprehensive plan for the 2020 election in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The secure drop boxes were included as part of that plan. The use of absentee ballot drop boxes is a mandatory and valid option that municipalities must offer to each voter for the return of their absentee ballot.
Halloran and her staff empty the ballot box on a daily basis and securely lock up the absentee ballots in the vaults. A team of poll workers trained by the registrars of voters will tally all of the absentee ballots on Election Day, Halloran said.
The absentee ballot drop box is included and treated as a “mail” option for the return of the absentee ballot. The box is installed in an area that is easily accessible to the voting public during all hours of the day, including nights and weekends.
“No Connecticut voter should have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote, particularly when the means to protect that health,” Merrill stated.
Voters may check to make sure that they are registered to vote: Voter Registration Lookup where they may also verify that their absentee ballot was received by the town clerk’s office.
There is still time to register to vote or update registration online: State of Connecticut’s Online Voter Registration System. However, the last day to register is Oct. 27 with a few exceptions detailed here.
Links to these and other election resources may be found on the Secretary of the State’s Elections and Voting Webpage.