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Executive order makes all Connecticut voters eligible for absentee ballots in August primaries

The Connecticut primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but was rescheduled to June 2 and then finally to August 11

HARTFORD, Conn. — Governor Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday, he signed an executive order allowing all Connecticut voters to vote absentee for the upcoming August 11 primary elections. 

State laws currently allow an absentee ballot for six reasons, active service in the Armed Forces, absent from town during all of the hours of voting, illness, religious beliefs, duties of an election official, and physical disability. 

Lamont said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical the state government makes reasonable adjustments that protect people while also allowing the democratic process continues.  

“Nobody should need to make a decision between their health and their right to vote,” Governor Lamont said. “Our state has taken every responsible step to this point to ensure that our residents are safe, and the next step we must take is to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 when Connecticut residents cast their ballots. We must guarantee access to the ballot, and this is a way to do that during these extraordinary circumstances. I do not take this decision lightly, and it is with the public health and welfare of residents in mind.” 

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The Sectary of the State, Denise Merrill, also announced that she intends to mail every registered voter in Connecticut an application. The voter will have to fill this application out and return it in order to receive an absentee ballot. The application will be sent out through the US Postal Service. It will include a postage-paid return envelope. Once applications are processed at the local level, voters who requested an absentee ballot will receive one in the mail. This will include a postage-paid return envelope. Each town will have its own secure dropbox in a prominent location to allow voters to deliver their ballot in person without any personal contact. 

The Connecticut primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but was rescheduled to June 2 and then finally to August 11 due to Governor sign respective executive orders. 

Read the full executive order by click here

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) released the following statement regarding the governor's executive order:

"I can understand the need for vulnerable populations and those with preexisting conditions to vote by absentee ballot. However, the process laid out in the Governor's executive order is not simply addressing those vulnerable groups. The proposed process raises significant questions of constitutionality and questions related to the security of unattended drop boxes that would be used to collect ballots.

"If even one piece of the state's constitution is not upheld, it sets a dangerous precedent that any part of the constitution could be ignored or overruled by one person. Constitutional protections cannot be eviscerated by the stroke of a pen. No matter how much we may want to waive the language of the Constitution given the COVID-19 health crisis, we are bound to the documents that created our country and state and cannot legally do that. At times it can be easy to rationalize ignoring the Constitution. But no matter how well reasoned the intentions are, the act of circumventing the constitution is not a luxury any governor should resort to and begs for legal challenges.  

“I also have significant concerns about the proposed drop box collection method for ballots which I have raised to the Governor's administration and Secretary of the State. Setting up unattended outside drop boxes for people to submit their ballots contradicts state law which requires in-person return of absentee ballots for security purposes and to protect the integrity of the voting system. Drop boxes present unique security issues related to stuffing ballot boxes, which is why state law clearly emphasizes the importance of in-person absentee ballot returns. I strongly believe this policy must be revised and replaced with more secure methods for in-person ballot returns for those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of not being able to mail a ballot and not being comfortable walking into a clerk's office, such as waiting in their car outside the clerk's office, calling the clerk and having a runner meet them at their car. At the very least, drop boxes need to be located within a town clerks' office which will act as a deterrent for untoward activity and place them in view of watchful eyes on election day.

“Even if the ballot drop box issue is resolved, the constitutional questions remain. As Thomas Jefferson said: 'The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the constitution.' Once a government feels comfortable overriding the Constitution to fit a unique purpose, the more uncomfortable our liberties become. In 2014, the people of the State of Connecticut rejected, by a large percentage, a proposal to amend the Constitution and expand absentee voting. The situation today is unique and we can be innovative in how we help people access their right to vote. But to disregard the Constitution and to ignore that voters recently rejected similar proposals is a dangerous place to be.”