Secretary of the state gives talk on 2020 voting process

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill gave a free, virtual talk, about Connecticut’s voting process. Merrill is Connecticut’s chief elections official, also answered questions.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill gave a free, virtual talk, about Connecticut’s voting process. Merrill is Connecticut’s chief elections official, also answered questions.

Darien Library /

Are polling places safe? What’s involved in absentee voting? Can someone’s vote be accidentally counted twice?

Those questions and others were recently answered by Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill in a free, virtual talk, hosted by the Darien Library.

Merrill, who is Connecticut’s chief elections official, also answered questions from participants.

The program was co-sponsored by the Leagues of Women Voters of New Canaan and Darien, and the library.


Merrill said the pandemic has greatly impacted the voting process.

Normally, in most elections, about four to eight percent of people vote by absentee ballot, according to Merrill. All together, in both primaries this year, 348,205 people voted, and 58 percent voted absentee, she said.

“It was certainly higher than usual, and we are anticipating again that it will be higher again [in the Nov. 3 election],” said Merrill, adding that Democrats voted more by absentee than Republicans.

Polling places

There are 2.1 million registered voters in the state of Connecticut.

The polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will follow all CDC guidelines.

Guidelines are as follows:

 Everyone will have to maintain a six foot distance.  Voting booths will be at least six feet apart.

 The number of people entering the polling places at one time will be monitored.

 Polling places will be scrubbed down both before and after they’re used.

 All poll workers and moderators are required to wear a mask.

Merrill added, however, that masks are not required of voters.

“We don’t require people to have a mask on because you can’t disenfranchise any voters for any reason,” she said. “We are recommending moderators and poll workers to gently require it, and that they have some extra masks on hand.”

Voters may bring their own ballpoint pen or pencil. If officials are supplying them, they have to be single use.

Voting absentee

Applications for absentee ballots will be mailed to all active registered voters.

However, the voter application form is accessible on the website by searching “absentee voting.” It can also be picked up at one’s Town Hall.

“Anyone can download an application, but the reason we’re mailing them along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope is because you still have to print it out,” Merrill said.

In addition to all the standard choices for voting absentee, new this year to the application is a choice that says “concerned about the COVID pandemic.”

The application must be signed.

The applications that are being mailed are specifically bar coded to the recipient. “The town clerk would really appreciate using that application because it saves them a little time,” she said.

As soon as the clerk logs in an application, it’s also logged in on the voter registry.

Those who will not be residing at their current address at the time of the election may download an application and send it in, or if they call or email, their town clerk will send them an application. However, applications are not being mailed abroad.

Prior to voting, Merrill recommends checking one’s registration status at “You can look up your name, your address, your party affiliation, and make sure it’s correct,” Merrill said.

The town clerks will be sending out the absentee ballots after Oct. 2.

The absentee ballot should be mailed back as soon as possible, according to Merrill.

It can also be dropped off in an absentee ballot drop box, located outside Town Hall.

The ballot drop box has “tiny little openings to put your ballot in,” she said. “They’re extremely secure and solid and bolted to the ground, and usually have security cameras involved.”

“Mark your ballot, fold it, insert it into the inner envelope, sign it, date it, seal it. One ballot per envelope,” Merrill said. “Then, you insert the sealed inner ballot into the outer envelope.”

The postage is prepaid. “Our office is sending money to the towns to pay for all postage related to the election,” Merrill said.

“We ask for your telephone and email address,” Merrill said. “If you put them in and something goes wrong with your ballot, the town clerks will be able to contact you and let you know that unless you fix the ballot, it will not be counted.”

The law has been changed this year in that absentee ballots can be counted starting at 6 a.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Additionally, all ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“COVID changed everything and we were left trying to recreate a system where no one would have to choose between their health and their vote — that’s the bottom line,” Merrill said. “That’s why we’re doing all of this.”

Checks and balances

There’s a system of checks and balances to make sure no one votes more than once, even by accident, according to Merrill.

If someone votes in person, and if there’s an absentee ballot that comes in by that person, the absentee ballot gets discarded.

“If you receive an absentee ballot but decide you want to go vote in person, tear up the ballot and go vote as usual,” she said.

However, if the absentee ballot has already been logged in and the person who completed it comes in to vote in person, “you get turned away,” Merrill said,

Also new this year is a ballot tracking system. Voters can see on the website if their ballots have been logged in by the town clerks.

Merrill said that function is “going to go a long way to assure people that their ballot is being received and counted.”

Watch the voting talk on Darien TV/79;