By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer
WINDSOR — Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill on Thursday outlined how exactly the state planned on holding primary elections during a pandemic to a virtual audience of a few dozen.
In the age of surgical masks and social distancing, officials have long been preparing for an unprecedented election season, she explained to the Windsor Democratic Town Committee over Zoom.
“We do not want people to choose between endangering their health and voting,” she told attendees.
In its current state, the plan focuses on modifying physical polling places while still giving voters the option to mail in their ballots. Morrill believes an injection of $5 million of federal aid into the state’s existing election budget will give cities and towns across Connecticut enough resources to carry out the two-tiered plan.
The physical modifications to polling places will vary by location but, according to her, may include moving venues to larger spaces and hiring extra staff, specifically citing the need for younger volunteers. In addition, every town in the state is required to submit a ‘safe polling plan’ that outlines any unique safety issues and addresses funding requests.
The other leg of the official strategy – voting by mail via absentee ballot – has already been universally authorized in a number of other states. However, Connecticut’s constitution is notoriously restrictive in this area. Historically, voting by mail would only be approved in extreme circumstances – military deployment or grave illness for example.
But Gov. Lamont sliced through convention earlier this week when he issued an executive order allowing all citizens to cast their primary votes via mail if no vaccine was widely available by the rescheduled Aug. 11 vote. Submission forms for absentee ballots will be mailed to every single household in the state well before that date, Merrill claims.
The governor’s executive order does not cover the November general election however, leaving officials unsure of what that day might look like.
“That’s another big, open question,” according to Merrill.