NEW BRITAIN – As all registered voters are starting to receive their absentee ballot applications in the mail, local officials urge voters to send the applications in as soon as possible.
“If you are planning to vote by mail, it is important to review the application fully when you receive it, complete it correctly, and send it to us as soon as possible,” New Britain Town Clerk Mark Bernacki said.
Going forward with the general election on Nov. 3, Bernacki expects more voters will be involved and with the anticipated large volumes of mail-in ballots, it would serve everyone well to have the applications sent out early.
“We’ve been feverishly trying to plan for the onslaught of applications and we want to make sure that the public is aware that the state will again mail out absentee ballots to all registered voters,” he said. “This will be like what they did for the primary in August. But we were so inundated with phone calls and a high volume of applications that we barely had time to process them all. Just remember that after the applications are sent in, the town clerks have to process them before ballots can be sent out. It takes a lot of time.”
For the 2016 primary elections, Bernacki said the city received about 330 applications for absentee ballots compared to the roughly 3,600 that they received for this year’s primaries. The general election for the same year saw 1,500 applications and with expectations for a higher voter turnout this year, the town clerk said the volume will be “herculean.”
Because there were so many mix-ups caused by the state’s third-party mail house for the primaries, including delayed and lost ballots, Bernacki strongly recommends voters to send in their applications early and if people are not registered to vote, do not wait until the last minute to register.
Lucian Pawlak, from the city’s Registrar of Voters Office, agrees with Bernacki, stating to avoid delays and complications, the earlier the applications are sent in, the better. He also emphasized that while absentee ballots are an option, in-person voting will still be available for those who prefer to vote on site.
Through the primaries, Pawlak said they learned to do everything early and to be prepared before everyone else is, including securing cleaning supplies for polling places, having safety protocols in place and hiring sanitizing staff ahead of time.
“Our office started to prepare in March to make sure that all polling places have hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, throw-away pens and face masks and face shields for all the poll workers, and it totally paid off,” he said. “We were way ahead of the state and it made things much easier. Taking the situation seriously is what we learned.”
With 17 polling places, the registrar’s office is already planning on hiring more poll workers for Election Day and making sure everyone feels safe, which is the biggest challenge. They are also doubling up on absentee ballot counters to respond to the expected high influx of mail in ballots.
“Because this is a presidential election year, we are expecting anywhere between 10 to 15 times the volume compared to the primaries,” he said. “Based on the current online traffic of people registering, there is a lot of interest and people want to be heard. For me, that’s heartwarming.”
Absentee ballots will be mailed out Oct. 2. All ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day for them to be counted. Absentee ballot drop-off boxes are also available outside of City Hall as a secure and contactless way to deliver ballots in the face of the pandemic.