The coronavirus has impacted every facet of our everyday lives and this yearâ€™s November elections are no different. I am going to take this time to explain some of the changes youâ€™ll see this year as you prepare to vote, as well as to alleviate any concerns you may have regarding the safety and security of our election process here in New Britain. Here are five quick and critical things to keep in mind.
The first thing is addressing what is perhaps the most important question Iâ€™ve heard from many of you - â€śIs my normal polling location open on Election Day and can I go vote in person?â€ť The answer to that is an absolute yes! All of New Britainâ€™s polling locations will be open on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020 from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. You can absolutely vote in person, should you feel comfortable doing so. Voting at your polling location is the safest way to protect the integrity of our ballot. Itâ€™s important to note that our election officials have gone above and beyond to make each polling precinct as safe as possible. Each polling location will be practicing social distancing and will routinely clean all election equipment. All you need to do is show up with your mask and ID to cast your vote.
Secondly, if youâ€™re not comfortable voting in person, weâ€™ve got you covered. The Secretary of Stateâ€™s office has mass mailed absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in New Britain last month. If you want to vote absentee, covid-19 is a valid excuse to do so and your application has already been sent to you. If you have not received your absentee ballot application yet, contact the Town Clerkâ€™s Office at 860-826-3344 to request a new one. Once you fill out your application and send it back, our Town Clerkâ€™s Office will process your application and put a ballot in the mail for you. You should receive your ballot just a few days after your application is processed.
Thirdly, it is important for voters who chose to vote absentee to know there are two safe and secure ways to return your ballot to the Town Clerk for counting. You can mail it back using the pre-paid return envelope or you can drop it off at one of the two secure ballot drop-box locations located in and outside of City Hall in New Britain.
Fourth, please remember timing is everything. Unfortunately, mailing your absentee ballot doesnâ€™t always guarantee itâ€™ll arrive in our Town Clerkâ€™s office to be counted on time. If you are deciding to wait until the last minute to make your voting decision (which is any time in the last week before Election Day), I strongly encourage you to either vote in person or use one of the ballot drop-boxes instead. We want to ensure that every eligible vote is counted and that no voter is disenfranchised.
Last but not least, if you are not already registered to vote but you are planning to do so - please donâ€™t wait any longer. The deadline for voter registration is seven days before the election, which makes this yearâ€™s deadline October 27. If you miss the deadline, you can do Election Day Registration on Election Day. This would happen not at your usual polling place but rather at the Election Day Registration (EDR) location. New Britainâ€™s EDR location is Room 108 on the first floor of City Hall. Our Town Clerks and other election officials are working overtime to make sure this election goes as smooth as possible. They are working under very challenging and abnormal circumstances - please donâ€™t create an extra burden on them by waiting until Election Day to register to vote. Register in advance! You can register to vote in person at City Hall or online at https://voterregistration.ct.gov to make sure your voice is heard.
Voting is one of our most sacred and precious rights and obligations as citizens of this great country. If you donâ€™t vote, donâ€™t complain.
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain