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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.

Registration

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