By Jim Simon
Democrat Registrar Town of Stratford
Q: How does the Registrar ensure that a person voting in person has not also sent in an Absentee Ballot (AB), especially if Absentee Ballots that are postmarked by Election Day arrive several days later?
Connecticut law stipulates that ABs must be received by 8 p.m. Election Night; those received after that, even if postmarked on time, are not counted. In 2020, when Stratford was flooded by 10,000 ABs instead of the normal 3,500, the Registrars paused processing them on Sunday afternoon. For this first batch, they placed an AB notation next to your name at the polling locations so you could not also vote on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a second batch of ballots that arrived Monday and Tuesday before 8 p.m. were held and counted Thursday after making sure the person did not also vote at the polls. GOP Registrar Lou DeCilio says three or four people who submitted ABs also voted at the polls Tuesday. Their AB was not counted.
Q: Your office just sent me a letter, asking whether I had moved across town and whether I was still registered to vote in Stratford. Why do you care where I live, as long as I stay in Stratford?
If you stay in Stratford but move to a new neighborhood, there’s a good chance you are in a different voting district, and you will choose among different candidates for town council, other local offices, and legislative races. So your information has to be up to date.
Want to check to make sure you are registered at the right address in Stratford? Go to https://portaldir.ct.gov/sots/LookUp.aspx and insert your name and date of birth. The web site will tell you the name of your voting district and where you can cast a ballot this November for Mayor and Town Council. Give it a try!
Q. Any word on when Stratford will get the 2020 U.S. Census data to redraw its town council district lines?
The U.S. Census Bureau has announced it would delay delivering its redistricting data to the states until Sept. 30, 2021, instead of March 31, 2021. This may cause a chain reaction, as Hartford will be delayed in setting legislative lines, and that may push back municipal efforts in Stratford and other towns.
The local redistricting effort is conducted by a town-appointed committee; the committee recommendation then gets considered by the Town Council and Mayor. Whatever party wins the mayor’s race and majority of town council seats in November 2021 will have an upper hand in the process. Once approved, the new district lines are designed to be in effect for 10 years, starting with the Fall 2023 Town Council races.
Q: I have a question about my “bona fide” residence for voting. If I walked into your office and presented a CT Driver’s license with a Trumbull address, would you register me to vote in Stratford if I told you I voted from Lordship five years ago before moving, and I still feel like a bona fide Stratford resident? Even if I sleep in Trumbull as my condo and car taxes are cheaper there?
As I said in the last column, Connecticut allows you to vote from your “bona fide” residence, but doesn’t define the term. Under court rulings, Connecticut residents have been allowed to vote in their former municipality, even after moving to another town, if they say they have plans to move back to their previous home. Car registration is not a significant factor.
While I don’t agree with this approach, I don’t see evidence that there are a lot of people who vote in Stratford but have a full-time residence elsewhere.
Q: Ranked Choice Voting has been implemented in Maine and also has been approved statewide in New York. Do you think Connecticut should follow suit?
Imagine there are four candidates on the ballot for Stratford Mayor this November. You love one candidate, but you don’t think she or he is going to win, so you vote for somebody else. What if you could rank the candidates in terms of which ones you favor the most, and the least?
That’s the theory behind Ranked Choice Voting. If no one wins 50% plus one, the candidate with the lowest vote total is dropped. That candidate’s supporters have their votes redistributed, based on their second choice. The process continues until someone hit the 50%+ mark.
While I think it is worth discussing, I am apprehensive of any change that makes it harder to know the winner immediately after polls close. I would rather put my energies into pushing for expanded mail-in voting and allowing people to cast ballots for several days leading into Election Day.