As a general rule, in Connecticut, absentee balloting is conducted by the Town Clerk, with voter registration, polling place operations, supervised balloting, election reporting, and absentee ballot counting performed by the Registrar of Voters.
Our office responds to many public inquiries about absentee voting, a service we are pleased to provide since voters quite reasonably expect our office to be a resource in this area. However, due to many recent events -- changes to the law around COVID-19, the state's introduction of mailed applications to voters who previously hadn't used absentee balloting, unfortunate delays in ballot mailing by the state's mailing vendor that led to many Fairfield voters not receiving their ballots in a timely manner for the August 11th primary, and news and speculation regarding postal service changes on national news reports -- we are fielding an enormous increase in call volume with absentee ballot questions, and this article is being published to help voters find the most current information we have available. If you have been referred to this article and have further questions, please call us at the number below and we will do our best to answer them.
What Happened to My Ballot for the Primary?
For the first time, the Secretary of the State's office mailed postage-paid absentee ballot applications to every eligible voter for the primary, and adopted responsibility for mailing the ballots to voters. Connecticut law requires that ballots be sent 21 days before the date of the primary, but for reasons that we do not know, ballots were not sent to Fairfield voters until 10 days before the primary.
Further, due to a miscommunication between the vendor, the Secretary of the State's office, and Town Clerks, about 10% of the ballots were not sent out at all, and the Town Clerks were asked to send them out just hours before Hurricane Isaias made landfall in Connecticut. As a result, many voters received their ballots the day before the primary, on the day of the primary, or even after the primary. We know that these delays inconvenienced many voters and even disenfranchised some. We're sorry if these problems caused you to miss the primary, and would strongly encourage you to communicate with your local officials (Registrars and Clerk) if you haven't seen your ballot and may need emergency assistance to help you vote.
How Can I Be Sure to Get an Absentee Ballot for November?
The State Legislature has extended the ability of all voters to request an absentee ballot due to concerns about COVID-19 in Public Act 20-3. As a result, applications will be made available that feature this language soon.
We have been advised that the Secretary of the State's office will send applications to all eligible voters in mid-September. Ballots become available on October 2nd, and should be sent on that date or within 2 days of the application being received.
If you prefer not to wait and would like to download and print an absentee ballot application, you can complete this application at any time and return it to the Town Clerk's office.
If you will be outside the country and would like to request that a ballot be sent to you 45 or 90 days before the election (including by email), you can complete a "Federal Post Card Application" using the form at this page.
How Can I Be Sure My Ballot Will Arrive on Time and Be Counted?
We have been hearing a lot of concern about postal delays, and compounded with the delays people experienced in the primaries, we understand how this is causing anxiety for our voters.
The best information we have received is that delays arising from overtime and local sorting policies at the post office may cause mail to be delivered one business day later than normal; the advice given to voters by the USPS is to assume a 15-day total time for a ballot to 1) be sent from Town Hall to you, 2) to give you a day to fill it out and put it back in the mail, and 3) have the ballot reliably delivered back to Town Hall. This is very close to the timeline we have experienced in communicating with voters by mail prior to the postal policy changes that have been in the news, and sending a voted absentee ballot back at least a week before the election has been and continues to be good advice.
The State of Connecticut has been publishing receipt dates for absentee ballots via the state's voter registration lookup tool, and you can look yourself up to see if your ballot has been received. If you sent it in more than a week ago and do not see it listed on that page as having been received, you can call the Town Clerk or the Registrar of Voters to inquire about the status of your ballot.
Ballots in Connecticut are counted if the are received by 8pm on Election Day: if you have your ballot and are concerned about it making it back in time, you can use a service with tracking or delivery guarantees, you can return the ballot by hand to the ballot drop box located at Fairfield Town Hall (611 Old Post Road), or you can come to vote in person at your polling place. Voters who have not returned their ballots remain eligible to vote in person, and we have established precautions to ensure that voting in person is a safe, sanitary, and socially-distanced experience for voters. Also, every town in Connecticut permits voters with health and safety concerns about voting inside the polling place to have a ballot brought to their car; we will provide voters information closer to the election about how to schedule or access this service in Fairfield this November.
If you are unable to get to the polls and you are concerned that none of these options will work for you, we have a number of options that we have that may be able to help you vote on a case-by-case basis; call or write to us to inquire if you find yourself in a situation where you are concerned that you might be disenfranchised. We make it a point to go out of our way to assist voters in any way that we can, and we would much rather spend an hour helping you than discovering after the election that you couldn't vote.
Still Need Help?
Hopefully this article has answered most of the questions you may have about absentee balloting: if not, please contact us at (203) 256-3115 and we will try to offer advice or direction about your particular situation.