CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont has signed legislation that will provide municipal election officials with the option of having more time to begin the process of verifying absentee ballots that have been received for the upcoming general election.
The use of absentee ballots is expected to significantly increase for the Nov. 3 election due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The bill the governor signed Friday allows local election officials to open the outer envelope used in absentee ballots and verify the legitimacy of the inner envelope beginning on Oct. 30 at 5:00 p.m., rather than 6:00 a.m. on Election Day, as was previously required. The inner envelope, which contains a voter’s submitted ballot, still cannot be opened or the ballot counted until the day of the election.
Beginning the verification process on Oct. 30 is entirely optional for each municipality, and requires a joint agreement between a local town clerk and registrar. Municipalities that choose to use these pre-counting procedures must notify the Secretary of the State in advance and obtain her approval.
“In America, every voter has the right to cast their ballot and have that ballot accurately counted, even during a pandemic,” Lamont said. “This slight change in our election laws will provide some extra time for our registrars and town clerks to do their necessary administrative work, while ensuring that each ballot is safe and secure.”
Lamont is reminding voters that every municipality in the state has been given at least one drop-box for voters to drop off their applications to request an absentee ballot, as well as the actual absentee ballots. All of the drop-boxes are located in secure spots outdoors, and most towns and cities have placed them at their local town hall buildings. Using the drop-boxes is a good idea to ensure that the ballots do not get delayed in the mail, the governor said.
“Your voice is your vote,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “No voter should have to choose between their health and exercising the fundamental right to vote. This legislation protects the integrity of our elections by ensuring that every valid vote cast in our state is counted accurately.”
The legislation is House Bill 7005, An Act Concerning a Municipal Election Monitor at the 2020 State Election and Processing of Absentee Ballots for the 2020 State Election. Earlier this summer, Lamont signed a bill granting all registered voters in Connecticut the ability to vote in the general election utilizing an absentee ballot due to the need to socially distance because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Absentee ballots are a proven, reliable, and safe option for voters, and every valid vote cast will be a vote counted in the state of Connecticut,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said. “This modest change to the process will make it a little easier for local election officials as they prepare for Election Day. No one should have to choose between protecting their health and casting their ballot.”
Instructions on how to vote by absentee ballot in Connecticut are online here.
This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch