The Secretary of the State’s Office (SOTS) released a report on Wednesday (Nov. 1) outlining the absentee ballots returned by each town. The report revealed that out of the 47,741 absentee ballots issued for the 2023 municipal elections, only 27,162 have been returned to town clerks’ offices, indicating that approximately 45% of requested absentee ballots remain unaccounted for before Election Day, Nov. 7.
Milford had the highest number of returned ballots with a total of 1,382. Greenwich followed closely behind, with 1,267. Bridgeport residents returned 1,008 ballots, while Stamford and West Hartford reported 840 and 710 returned ballots, respectively.
Eight smaller towns — Thompson, North Canaan, Hampton, Eastford, Canterbury, Washington, Union and Morris — reported receiving zero ballot requests. The SOTS stated that these towns “may not have yet input their counts into the system.”
Registered Democrats had the most participation with 14,631 returned ballots, outnumbering the 6,270 returned by Republicans and the 6,258 returned by unaffiliated voters and other parties combined. Democrats also outperformed all other parties in 131 of the state’s 169 towns.
Under current Connecticut law, eligible voters are permitted to request an absentee ballot based on specific criteria. Qualifications to receive an absentee ballot include, being out of town on Election Day; not being able to appear at the designated polling place due to illness or physical disability (not necessarily your own); active military service; religious beliefs prohibiting secular activities on election day; or if a person is serving as an election official at a different polling place throughout the voting hours.
To obtain an absentee ballot, registered voters must complete an application request form. Once processed, the ballot is mailed to the voter, who has the option to return it by mail, hand-deliver it to their town clerk’s office or place it in designated ballot boxes within their town.
Aside from the voter, only specific individuals — including family members, election officials, police officers or personal healthcare workers — are permitted to return an absentee ballot.
Ballot drop boxes have come under scrutiny this year after a video showing a woman repeatedly stuffing a number of papers into a drop box outside the Bridgeport city center a week before the Sept. 12 Democrat mayoral primary.
The video was reviewed by Bridgeport Superior Court Judge William Clark who ruled, on Wednesday (Nov. 1), that the primary results be tossed out and ordering a new Democratic mayoral primary to be held after the Nov. 7 general election. Judge Clark clarified that he lacks the authority to postpone or cancel the general election.
In his ruling, Judge Clark stated that “the volume of ballots so mishandled is such that it calls the result of the primary election into serious doubt and leaves the court unable to determine the legitimate result of the primary.”
There is a possibility that similar mishandling of ballots has occurred elsewhere in the state. This concern arose during the Sept. 26 special session where lawmakers voted on a bill granting the SOTS office the authority to hire an election monitor for the upcoming election.
Sen. Herron Keyson Gaston (D-Bridgeport) raised this issue during a debate on an amendment to remove drop boxes, stating, “This issue that we’re having right now, that we see out of Bridgeport is not just happening in Bridgeport, it’s happening across many of our towns and many of our municipalities.”
The amendment failed and Sen. Gaston has refrained from specifying the municipalities engaged in absentee ballot fraud.
Meanwhile, in the 2024 elections, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to lift the restrictions on access to absentee ballots and permit the General Assembly to amend the state’s Constitution, enabling absentee ballots in all situations.
Considering Sen. Gaston’s allegations, lawmakers should thoroughly investigate potential absentee ballot fraud in other parts of the state. This review will ensure that voters are well-informed before deciding on whether to amend the constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee ballots.