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House Republicans Say Secretary of the State Failed on Absentee Ballot Initiative

Posted on October 29, 2020


HARTFORD – The Secretary of the State’s office failed to clarify how absentee ballots should be tabulated under a recently approved statute, prompting the governor to issue a last-minute executive order today that will pave the way for towns and cities to begin the certification process for absentee ballots tomorrow, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said today.

Klarides said she welcomed any effort by the state to ensure the validation of Connecticut’s elections and instill confidence in the process because the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in record numbers of mail-in votes.

“Five days before the election the governor had to issue an executive order to allow for ballots to be opened so that people who voted by absentee can have their votes properly counted,’’ Klarides said. “Uncertainty remained, after months of lobbying by Secretary Merrill, which makes it harder to deliver clean elections in the minds’ of voters.”

The executive order will make it possible for local election officials to open the outer envelope of the absentee ballots to begin the certification process and bypass the notification process required of the towns and cities. Dozens of towns and cities have indicated that they intended to start work on the ballots tomorrow.

Secretary Denise Merrill petitioned the legislature in a special session last month to allow for the certification of absentee ballots before election day so that all of them could be tabulated on time. A record number of absentees are expected. Merrill only this week made it clear that towns and cities had to notify her office that they intended to begin certifying ballots early.

“Secretary Merrill had an obligation, as the overseer of state elections, to clearly inform towns and cities how this process would take place under the new law that she requested,” Klarides said. “Apparently, that did not happen. So now, at the 11th hour, the Governor had to issue an executive order so we can move forward.”

Klarides said this unfortunate episode erodes public confidence in the political process and makes it difficult for local election officials to carry out their jobs. “It is a failure at the state level and this could have been easily avoided,” Klarides said.