As the November general election approaches in the midst of COVID-19, New Haven residents and Yale students have the opportunity to cast their votes using absentee ballots or in-person voting.
The state of Connecticut has adopted new regulations governing voting to accommodate for public health and safety concerns, and the voting process in New Haven has shifted accordingly. Most significantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been added to the list of permitted reasons for requesting an absentee ballot, meaning that anyone registered to vote in the state of Connecticut can vote absentee in this election. Although in-person voting will remain open, state and city officials have encouraged residents to vote absentee, if possible.
“We do expect [absentee ballots] to be an uptick this year due to people’s concerns,” said New Haven City Clerk Michael Smart. “We are asking folks to download and return their applications soon so our office can get ahead of the rush.” Additionally, the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office intends to mail an absentee ballot application to all registered voters in the state.
Residents can vote absentee by mail or drop their applications or ballots in drop boxes found at 200 Orange St. These drop boxes are regularly checked by the city clerk’s staff and have curbside and disability-accessible options.
Absentee ballots can be requested as late as one day before Election Day, but to apply, a voter must register in advance. Although New Haven City Hall has Election Day registration, also known as same-day registration, this process suffered massive delays in the 2018 election, preventing many from voting.
When asked to comment on the possibility of delays, Shannel Evans, New Haven’s Democratic Registrar of Voters, said her team is working on a plan and investigating a series of options to make the voting process as easy as possible. She added that the best method to assist election officials and to ensure that votes are properly counted is to register to vote early in advance.
Another difficulty election officials are facing is a shortage of poll workers. Under normal circumstances, senior citizens make up the majority of poll workers. However, these poll workers are most at-risk for COVID-19, making the hiring process difficult for recent and upcoming elections.
Saul Roselaar ’21, co-president of Every Vote Counts at Yale, encourages young, healthy voters to sign up to work the polls. “In many places, this is a paid position and it’s a really good civic opportunity,” Roselaar told the News.
To become a poll worker, interested citizens can register online. In New Haven, poll worker positions are paid and count for community service.
In order to simplify the voting process, Roselaar recommends signing up for a voting resource online, like those at vote.org or turbovote.org, and suggests submitting your absentee ballot early. These platforms can help you check your registration status, find your polling location and set election reminders. “All three of those platforms will take you step by step through the process of registering to vote if you haven’t done that and requesting a ballot if you haven’t done that,” said Roselaar.
Evans and her Republican counterpart, Marlene Napolitano, echoed this sentiment, advising voters to find appropriate forms online, fill them out and either mail them or bring them to 200 Orange St., along with an ID or piece of mail with a residential address listed. The office is closed to the public due to the pandemic, but upon arrival, voters can call 203-946-8035, and an official will be sent to them to complete the process. Additionally, potential voters can register at the Your Vote Matters/Don’t Let Them Count You Out event at the New Haven Green on Sept. 19. The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 27.
The ballot for the upcoming election will include the candidates for the presidential election, as well as elections for members of the House of Representatives, Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives.
The 2020 general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
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Correction, Sept. 8: A previous version of this article said that the ballot drop boxes were located at 100 Orange St. In fact, they are located at 200 Orange St.