Despite Delivery Extension, All Absentee Voting Must Be Completed August 11
Is it possible that primary absentee ballots received and counted after a newly extended deadline were mailed after polls officially closed on Tuesday, August 11?
That question was answered by the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s (SOTS) office after The Newtown Bee learned the local Town Clerk’s office was apparently holding mailed in absentee ballot envelopes that were not postmarked.
According to the US Postal Service, postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage, nor to pieces with an indicia applied by various postage evidencing systems. So does that mean any pre-paid primary absentee ballot envelopes that are dropped in mail boxes after polls close Tuesday, or on August 12, and delivered without a postmark by a newly extended deadline of August 13 will still be counted?
The response from SOTS Communications Director Gabe Rosenberg lays all the responsibility for ensuring that on the Postal Service.
Rosenberg writes: "Although a postmark is not required on those ballots, the postal service has confirmed to us that they will postmark all ballots today (and obviously going forward for the next), even the ones that don't require it so that Town Clerks will know which ones should be counted."
The latest concern regarding statewide primary voting that has already been delayed — twice — because of COVID-19 precautions, and has been subject to a first-ever allowance to utilize absentee ballots outside a long-established state constitutional criteria, surfaced in Newtown just hours after polls opened Tuesday and the morning after SOTS Denise Merrill asked for and received an Executive Order from Governor Ned Lamont.
That order, in part, states: “...the Secretary of the State has requested that the deadline for receipt of ballots be extended for ballots sent through the U.S. Mail, provided such ballots are postmarked by primary election day and such ballots are received in time to provide for efficient administration of the primary election and a measure of finality in counting the results...”
It goes on to say: “...for the August 11, 2020 primary, absentee ballot sets postmarked on or before August 11, 2020 and delivered via U.S. mail to election officials on or before August 13, 2020 shall be counted and included in the totals provided by the head moderator for each municipality.”
On a query from The Newtown Bee around 9 am, Town Clerk Debbie Halstead indicated she was in possession of mailed in absentee ballots with no postmark, prompting a call for clarification to Hartford.
Clearly, despite the recent complications brought by Tropical Storm Isaias that prompted the governor issuing a delay authorization, it is the intent that all balloting occurring outside official in-person polling places should be completed before 8 pm, August 11.
So voters still holding absentee ballots Tuesday should either drop them in the mail before 8 pm, or deposit them in the contact-free and secure absentee ballot box outside the Newtown Municipal Center — near the entry opposite the Community Center. The only other option is for voters to skip the absentee process and head to their local polling station before 8 pm.
All voting for the primary is at Newtown High School, 12 Berkshire Road. Locations within the building corresponding to individual voting districts will be clearly marked.
Newtown’s registrars offered these reminders to anyone planning to vote in person on August 11:
*Masks are required.
*Only voters and workers are allowed in the polls.
*Voters may use their own pens, but know that red will not work.
*Voters may bring something to write on, like a book, to avoid voting in the booth, if they choose.
*Voters are expected to sanitize upon entering and leaving the polling place; volunteers will be on site with a spray bottle.
*Occupancy limits and social distancing will be observed, and loitering will not be permitted.
“Remember we have to keep the poll workers and voters safe,” the registrars stated in an August 5 press advisory. “If you cannot wear a mask we can help, just ask the worker stationed outside.”
Voters are asked to check their own enrollment before arriving at the polls. Newtown voters should be unhampered by any storm-related issues, as the high school has power.
Voting information and status can be found by CLICKING HERE