(TNS) — As Connecticut prepares for a presidential election that likely will involve an unprecedented number of people voting by absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is encouraging voters to utilize the secure drop boxes located in municipalities across the state, as opposed to the postal service.

“The USPS has made clear that they are not a reliable method for delivering election mail; the ballot drop boxes are and should be used to deliver the absentee ballot applications and the absentee ballots themselves back to the towns,” Merrill’s office said in a recent news release.

While questions have been raised about how the postal service will manage the expected surge of mail-in voting during the November general election, the agency has said it has the capacity to handle the influx. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said recently he is suspending any policy or operational changes to the agency until after the presidential election to avoid “even the appearance” of any impact on election mail. The agency is strongly advising voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to the election date to ensure ample time to complete and return the ballots.

The secretary of the state will mail out absentee ballot applications between Sept. 8 and 11 to all eligible voters but, by law, the absentee ballots themselves cannot be distributed prior to Oct. 2. “By including postage paid envelopes with the applications, and with the absentee ballots, we are using federal funds to make sure everyone who chooses to can vote by absentee ballot with no cost to the voters or to their towns,” Merrill said.

Of the 298,494 people who voted during the primary election in Connecticut, 226,843, or 75%, cast their votes by absentee ballots. A new law, which went into effect late this summer, allows voters in Connecticut to vote by absentee if they have concerns about voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. That has meant the state essentially has had to create a mail-in voting system from scratch.

Officials viewed the Aug. 11 primary election as a test run for the general election, and it was not without its flaws. Merrill’s office also sent absentee ballot applications to all eligible voters ahead of the primary election, but failed to send absentee ballots to 20,000 registered Democrats and Republicans.

Since the ballots for the general election won’t be available until Oct. 2, just one month prior to the Nov. 3 election, Merrill said its imperative for voters to return their applications and ballots as soon as possible to relieve the burden on local election officials who process them.

Absentee ballots must be delivered using the postal service or secure drop boxes located outside of town and city halls across the state by 8 p.m. on Election Day, when the polls close.

Voters can check their registration status at myvote.ct.gov/lookup. Although absentee ballot applications will be mailed to every eligible voter, they also are available in English and Spanish at myvote.ct.gov/absentee.

©2020 The Day (New London, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.