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Merrill releases voting plan for primary, general election

Increased absentee ballots, election place security
US-VOTE-ELECTION

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill released the Connecticut plan for the August 11 primary and November 3 general elections in 2020 in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The plan calls for increasing health concerns at local voting places, adding connectivity for towns where it had been lacking in the past and increasing the availability of absentee ballots.  The plan can be found at myvote.ct.gov/2020Plan.

"No Connecticut voter should ever have to choose between their health and their right to vote," said Secretary Merrill. "This plan is designed to ensure that Connecticut's elections will be safe, secure, and accessible to every eligible voter who wants to participate. Connecticut's elections must go on, so I urge everyone who can to participate."

Merrill's office, following guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control, will work with the municipalities to give them the resources they need to make in-person voting as safe as it can possibly be, even in the face of a pandemic. "This includes approving towns' plans for polling place locations and layouts, staffing levels, emergency plans, and cleaning and safety materials needed. The Office, through the Safe Polls grant program, will be able to provide the resources necessary to secure the cleaning and safety equipment, as well as cleaning the polling places themselves and hiring additional poll workers, that will keep our voters and our poll workers safe. The Office will also be able to help the towns recruit and train poll workers for Election Day." 

Merrill said her office will work with the Connecticut National Guard to perform a high-level cybersecurity assessment of the election infrastructure of each of Connecticut's 169 towns. Approximately 20 towns that have had chronic connectivity issues to the state's election infrastructure, and will be providing network upgrades in theses towns to prevent potential security risks. The state will pay for 50% of the upgrade when towns commit to replacing outdated hardware and software

"Also at the local level, the Office has successfully piloted and will be rolling out a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure statewide to increase security at the local access point to the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS), the backbone of Connecticut's election administration system," said Merrill in a press release. 

The state will enter into a contract with a mail house, to send applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter in the state, and including postage paid return for those applications. "After processing at the local level, those voters who request absentee ballots will be delivered ballots via the mail house, and the cost of both the mailing and return of the absentee ballot will be borne by the Office of the Secretary of the State. The Office is also providing the the towns with the resources necessary to deal with the anticipated increase in absentee ballots, including providing every town with secure dropboxes and offering a grant program that can be used to defray additional costs and personnel related to a larger number of absentee ballots. This plan will allow a larger number of voters to vote by absentee ballot than ever before, and do it at no cost to the towns or the voters," said an emailed statement. 

According to Merrill's office, "In both 2016 and 2018, the towns with highest total number of absentee ballots were Greenwich, Fairfield, Norwalk, Stamford, and West Hartford, and the towns with highest percentage of absentee ballots cast were Canaan, Roxbury, Salisbury, Sharon, Washington, Wesport, and Weston."

The plan is attached and can be found at myvote.ct.gov/2020Plan.