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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Connecticut Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 19, 2020
Published: August 19, 2020

This is part of the Bren­nan Center’s Toolkits for Activ­ists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Polit­ical Context  |  What’s in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Admin­is­ter­ing an elec­tion under pandemic condi­tions requires under­tak­ing steps to keep voting access­ible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the prob­lems Covid-19 poses, what prepared­ness meas­ures Connecti­cut has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some polit­ical context for your advocacy.

Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local offi­cials have a lot of respons­ib­il­ity over elec­tions. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state offi­cials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we high­light some examples of changes that local elec­tions offi­cials can also make with this symbol:🔸

Polit­ical Context

Below is a list of the relev­ant offi­cials and inform­a­tion about the legis­lat­ive session.

Governor: Ned Lamont (D)  

Secret­ary of State: Denise Merrill (D)

Legis­lature: House (D) Senate (D)

Legis­lat­ive Session: The legis­lature last adjourned on July 28, 2020. Either the legis­lature or the governor can call a special legis­lat­ive session.

Local Elec­tions Offi­cials: In Connecti­cut, a number of local offi­cials share respons­ib­il­it­ies for admin­is­ter­ing elec­tions. You can look up indi­vidual local offi­cials here.

What Connecti­cut Has and What’s Needed

Three prior­it­ies. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elec­tions systems for success during a pandemic: regis­tra­tion, mail voting, and in-person voting.


Covid-19 may disrupt the tradi­tional ways Amer­ic­ans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or regis­ter­ing at govern­ment agen­cies. In the crucial weeks before the regis­tra­tion dead­line, postal service disrup­tions may lead many regis­tra­tion forms to arrive at elec­tion offices after the dead­line.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures Connecti­cut Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter regis­tra­tion
  • Elec­tion Day voter regis­tra­tion

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend mail and online voter regis­tra­tion dead­lines based on condi­tions in the state

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previ­ous elec­tions. Allow­ing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Elec­tion Day and decreases the expos­ure risk to Covid-19.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures Connecti­cut Already Has Taken:

  • Any registered voter may vote by mail by request­ing an absentee ballot and citing Covid-19 related concerns as the reason for the request
  • Provides pre-paid post­age for voting by mail
  • No notary or witness require­ment for return of mail ballot
  • No ID require­ment to vote by mail
  • Sends absentee-ballot applic­a­tions to all voters who have not yet applied

Changes Still Needed:

  • Online tool for request­ing an absentee ballot, so that those who do not receive mailed applic­a­tions may still apply
  • Provide post-elec­tion notice and cure oppor­tun­ity for defects on absentee-ballot envel­ope, includ­ing signa­ture mismatch or miss­ing signa­tures
  • Accept late-arriv­ing ballots post­marked by Elec­tion Day

In-Person Voting

Even with expan­ded mail voting oppor­tun­ity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disen­fran­chise voters without Inter­net and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accord­ance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Changes Still Needed:

  • Adopt in-person early voting
  • Ensure suffi­cient polling places are open and resourced on Elec­tion Day🔸
  • Take proper public health precau­tions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold train­ing sessions for polling-place work­ers well in advance of Elec­tion Day, so that elec­tion offi­cials can better anti­cip­ate prob­lems with staff­ing and logist­ics🔸
  • Increase access to curb­side voting at polling loca­tions

Advocacy Focus: Protect­ing Polling Places

No matter how prepared Connecti­cut is as a matter of policy, elec­tions offi­cials and advoc­ates must stay vigil­ant about ensur­ing safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for every­one all the way through Elec­tion Day. Here are some import­ant things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Connecti­cut and what rules govern the process:

  • State law allows local regis­trars of voters to apply to the Secret­ary of State to desig­nate addi­tional loca­tions for same-day voter regis­tra­tion comple­tion and processing.🔸
  • Muni­cipal clerks can desig­nate secure drop boxes for absentee ballots.🔸
  • Polling loca­tions cannot be changed within 31 days of an elec­tion unless the exist­ing loca­tions have been rendered unus­able.🔸
  • Local muni­cip­al­it­ies are oblig­ated to provide regis­trars of voters with neces­sary supplies and equip­ment.🔸
  • Each of Connecti­c­ut’s 169 muni­cip­al­it­ies filed a Safe Polls Plan with the Secret­ary of State, which includes estim­ates of needed staff­ing and PPE, as well as an emer­gency plan.🔸

Key Dates for Connecti­cut Elec­tions

  • August 6, 2020: Dead­line to register by mail for the Primary Elec­tion
  • August 11, 2020: Primary Elec­tion Day
  • Octo­ber 29, 2020: Dead­line to register by mail for the General Elec­tion
  • Novem­ber 3, 2020: General Elec­tion Day