Absentee ballot applications in the mail

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

An absentee ballot drop box serves as an impromptu podium for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal during a press conference outside of Bloomfield Town Hall on Monday. -PAUL HUGHES/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

BLOOMFIELD — Absentee ballot applications should be arriving in the mail for 1.2 million Democratic and Republican voters for the Aug. 11 primary elections.

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill on Monday again defended the move to mail out the applications amid the coronavirus pandemic to every voter eligible to vote in the party contests for U.S. president, U.S. House of Representatives and the General Assembly.

She also reaffirmed her intention to mail out absentee ballots to all registered voters for the Nov. 3 general elections.

Gov. Ned Lamont and Democrats in the legislature are proposing to rewrite election law so that voters who fear in-person voting may expose them to the coronavirus can cast absentee ballots on Nov. 3.

Lamont said Monday at the state Capitol that he and Democratic leaders are working to pass the enabling legislation in a special session over the next two weeks. The change must be made no later than July 31 for scheduling reasons related to the election calendar.

The governor has issued an executive order that will allow eligible voters to use absentee ballots on Aug. 11 under his emergency powers.

Lamont said his position is that any changes to the existing absentee ballot law should be specifically tied to the COVID-19 outbreak, and expanded access to absentee ballots would remain in effect only until there is a vaccine for the viral disease.

Republicans held a conference call last week to announce the creation of a hotline for voters to call to report irregularities concerning the Aug. 11 primaries, including if they received an absentee ballot application for a person who no longer lives at that residence. There are also two pending Republican lawsuits challenging Merrill’s decision to sending out the voter applications.

Merrill announced Monday in Bloomfield that the absentee ballot applications have been mailed out to the 1.2 million Democratic and Republican voters eligible to vote in the party primaries.

Unaffiliated voters cannot vote on Aug. 11 because primary elections are closed in Connecticut. Unaffiliated voters will have an opportunity to register in either party before the primary contests, and absentee ballot applications will be mailed to those voters who register Democratic or Republican.

The secretary of the state’s office used $846,000 in federal emergency funds from the CARES Act to pay for the printing and mass mailing of absentee ballot applications. The printing cost was $286,000, and the mailing cost was $560,000.

Merrill’s office also used $5 million in federal funds to purchase secure drop boxes for accepting absentee ballots for all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The 10 most populous communities received two of the boxes; all others received one box each.

A drop box outside of Bloomfield Town Hall served an impromptu podium for Monday’s news conference with Merrill and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., concerning federal funding for increasing ballot access that Democrats in Congress are seeking.