Sheila Hall, at center, Hartford's Republican Registrar of Voters, confers with staff at city hall. Yehyun Kim /

The 2020 election was a testament to our democratic process and the commitment of the American people to conduct elections in a free, fair and non-partisan way.  Not only did our election system work, but it worked well.  Many Connecticut citizens and elected officials worked with dedication and integrity to make voting safe and convenient, providing confidence that every vote was counted, even under new and challenging circumstances.

Thanks go to everyone involved, beginning with our Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, who had the foresight and persistence to push for an expansion of absentee ballot use in voting, and to allow all eligible Connecticut voters to vote from the safety and comfort of their own home, both in the primary and the general election.

Reviewing election results, Secretary Merrill concluded: “The availability of absentee ballots allowed more than 650,000 people to safely and conveniently cast their ballots, and helped to drive what will ultimately be among the highest turnout elections in Connecticut history.”

As early as last Spring, to ensure safe voting during a global pandemic, Merrill proposed mailing all registered voters absentee ballot applications with no-cost, postage-paid return envelopes so that our residents’ exposure to COVID-19 would be lessened. When later it became apparent that the U.S. Postal Service could not guarantee a timely return of ballots, Merrill again focused on solutions and arranged for official ballot drop boxes in each town so voters could be guaranteed that their ballots would be received in a timely, safe and secure fashion.

Merrill’s ambitious endeavors could not have come to fruition if it were not for the herculean efforts of the town clerks and the registrars of voters who worked long hours and continuously adapted to new and unusual situations. Town clerks demonstrated compassion and resilience in working out systems for those who wanted to drop off ballots, or to pick up an application or ballot in person. They also accommodated those who wanted to vote in person but contracted COVID-19 just prior to election day, and were unable to do so.

We are also grateful to Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz who supported the effort to make no-excuse absentee ballot voting a reality.  We thank our legislators as well, who assembled in person for two special sessions to craft bills enabling broad use of absentee ballots, and allowance for local election officials to begin early processing of them the Friday before election day to reduce slowdowns and ensure all votes could be counted efficiently and on time by end of Election Day.

Finally, we thank all the  volunteers and municipal employees who worked in town offices, preparing for the election, and the more than 10,000 volunteer poll workers across our state who showed up on Election Day to assist in-person voters. (A special shout out goes to the young people who stepped up to work the polls).

Due to the unusual circumstances with COVID-19 and the slowdown with the mail, Connecticut voters got a more in-depth glimpse at how other states already handle early in-person voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and mail-in voting. Not only was absentee voting in Connecticut this election convenient and safe, it helped reduce the lines at the polls which made things go quicker for those who chose to vote in person. The 2020 election helped Connecticut voters gain confidence in such new voting methods.

For many voters, the 2020 elections brought into sharp focus how antiquated Connecticut’s voting practices are, and gave birth to new-found interest in expanded voting rights and election reform. As represented by the 650,000 absentee ballots cast in November (a third of the Connecticut electorate), it is clear there is overwhelming bi-partisan support for expanding absentee voting.

Most states allow early voting. Connecticut is only one of six states that still do not.  Five states conduct elections entirely by mail where voters do not need to request a ballot and instead automatically receive one. Another 29 states and Washington D.C. offer “no-excuse” absentee voting to all voters.

We applaud Secretary Merrill’s recent call to make no-excuse absentee ballots permanent through an amendment to our state Constitution. She is strongly supported in this by our two U.S. senators, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy who both urged the state legislature to modernize Connecticut’s electoral system starting with expanded no-excuse absentee ballot use.

As a citizens’ coalition, we are committed to doing everything in our power to bring more people into the democratic process.  It is time for Connecticut to enter the modern age and join the ranks of the 44 states that either have early in-person voting, no-excuse absentee voting or both.

The Safe Vote CT is a statewide non-partisan coalition of citizen groups who have worked together since last spring to promote and support common sense voting reforms in Connecticut amidst a dangerous health pandemic and a volatile political climate.

Callie Gale Heilmann and Gemeem Davis, Co-Directors, Bridgeport Generation Now
Lori Brown, CT League of Conservation Voters
Dr. Lisa Chandler, CT River Huddle
Dr. Carol Rizzolo, CT Shoreline Indivisible
Cathy Moran, CT Shoreline Indivisible
Kirk Wesley, Congregations Organized for a New CT
Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, Congregations Organized for a New CT
Jeff Leake, President, Connecticut Education Association
Claire Walsh, Democratic Women in Action
Jim Chapdelaine, Emmy Award winning artist, Indivisible CT
Joseph Luciano and Cheri McKenzie, Indivisible CT4
Joanna Swomley and Nerlyn Pierson, Indivisible Greenwich
Michelle Abt and Sharyn Sarner, Indivisible Stamford
Carol Reimers, President, League of Women Voters of CT
Laura Smits, Vice President, Voter Services, League of Women Voters CT
Paula Bacolini, M.S./C.C.C., Make Voting Easy-CT
Jane Godbey and Merla Porter, Orange Indivisible
Virginia Wilkinson and Judith Slisz, PerSisters
Janée Woods Weber, President, PoliticaCT
Carol Davidge, Quiet Corner Shouts!
Gail Berritt and Alisa Trachtenberg, ReSisters
Marta Daniels, Safe Vote CT
Beth Hillson, Take Action CT
Greg Coleman, Together We Rise
Dr. Lurline F. deVos, Co-chairperson of UU the Vote, Unitarian Society of New Haven
Frances Padilla, president, Universal Health Care Foundation of CT
Jonathan Perloe, Voter Choice Connecticut
Alida Cella, Chair, Wallingford Democratic Town Committee
Frances  LaFrance-Proscino. Vice- Chair Wallingford Democratic Town Committee
Dr. Sarah Raskin, Women’s March CT
Carol Luckenbach, Women United: Just Us For All

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