Wilton registrars work to make voting happen
WILTON — There will be two elections where Wilton citizens will be asked to vote: a presidential preference primary on Aug. 11 and a general election on Nov. 3.
Wilton Democratic Registrar of Voters Karen Birck said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s theme for this year’s voting plan is “safe, secure, accessible.” In her plan, Merrill says the state faces crises on two fronts: COVID-19 and the continuing foreign threat to the integrity of U.S. elections. Details may be found at myvote.ct.gov/2020Plan.
To ensure the safety of in-person voting, Merrill’s office is requiring all cities and towns to submit a plan for the primary and general election that includes:
A list of polling places.
Staffing levels for each location.
An identified list of poll workers and moderators ready to work on election day.
A list of cleaning and safety products required and an emergency plan.
Municipalities that do so will be eligible for a grant to assist with those costs.
Speaking at an electronic meeting of the Democratic Town Committee on May 5, Birck said she and Republican registrar Annalisa Stravato are concerned about polling worker staffing levels.
“We will contact our poll workers to see who is still willing to work,” she said. One college student who worked on the gubernatorial election has volunteered to help, she said, and they are also reaching out to high school students who are less susceptible to the coronavirus than the town’s many older poll workers.
Monitoring the temperature of voters is not part of the plan, she said, but the registrars are planning on having hand sanitizer available as people come in and exit.
Poll workers will be provided with face masks and gloves. The town is also ordering plexiglass shields so there will be no direct contact between voters and poll workers.
The registrars are also working with police to update their emergency plan.
If more staff is hired, Birck said they expect they might be charged with counting absentee ballots.
Voters who do not wish to venture into at a polling place will have the option of voting by absentee ballot. All voters eligible to vote in the primary and all general election voters will receive applications for absentee ballots. Those applications will be returned, postage paid, to the town clerk. Absentee ballots will then be sent out through a mailing house contracted by the secretary of the state.
The state will provide each town with a secure drop box, to be affixed to a sidewalk, where voters may deposit their ballots. A location in Wilton is yet to be determined, Birck said.
In a press release issued last week, Merrill said she was interpreting Connecticut’s voting law (9-135) regarding illness as an excuse for absentee voting as giving her latitude.
“No Connecticut voter should be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote,” she said. “The coronavirus pandemic has created unique challenges for election administration, and this interpretation of the law will allow the maximum number of Connecticut voters to use their illness as an excuse under the existing statute because of the specific nature of the coronavirus.”
The statute, she said, “does not limit the term ‘illness’ to an individual who has limited mobile function or is hospitalized or confined to a bed,” she said.
She added that neither she nor Stravato will visit the town’s senior-living facilities to provide absentee ballot supervision. The residents will receive their ballot applications and she and Stravato are contacting facilities to make them aware of the changes.
Absentee ballots for the primary will become available on July 21. The deadline for new or unaffiliated voters to enroll by mail in a party to vote in its primary is Thursday, Aug. 6.
In terms of cybersecurity, Merrill’s plan says the Connecticut National Guard will perform a high-level assessment of the cybersecurity posture of each town as it relates to their election infrastructure.