(TNS) — Statistics released by the secretary of the state's office show that 3,746 absentee ballots in the Aug. 11 presidential primary, or about 2 percent of those cast statewide, were rejected for various reasons.
The Nov. 3 general election is expected to attract many more voters than the primary, and if the primary is an indicator, many more absentee ballots will be cast for president and congressional seats than in past elections.
The expected increase in absentee ballots comes as President Donald Trump and some Republicans across the country have criticized efforts by states, such as Connecticut, to increase absentee balloting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They say the effort increases the chances for voter fraud, while supporters of increased absentee balloting say there is no data to support that claim.
More than 550,000 absentee ballots were rejected nationwide for the Aug. 11 primary, according to an NPR analysis. Data shows that of the 348,205 votes cast in the Connecticut presidential primary, nearly 60 percent were cast absentee and Democrats were more likely to vote absentee than their Republican counterparts. Of the 91,776 votes cast in the Republican presidential primary, 40,334, or almost 44 percent, were absentee. And of the 256,429 votes in the Democratic presidential primary, 168,587, or almost 66 percent, were cast absentee.
The state legislature passed a bill in July expanding absentee ballot provisions to account for the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the November general election.
An Act Concerning Absentee Voting and Reporting of Results at the 2020 State Election and Election Day Registration received bipartisan support from legislators, though Republicans argued the bill had holes in terms of election security, and some Democrats said it didn’t go quite far enough in broadening voting rights.
Gov. Ned Lamont had already issued an executive order allowing all registered voters in Connecticut to use absentee ballots in the August primary, and the bill essentially extended that order.
All active, registered voters have now been mailed absentee ballot applications for the Nov. 3 election. Voters can choose to submit an application and vote by absentee, or go the traditional route of casting their ballot in person on Nov. 3.
Absentee Ballot Rejections
While most people vote in person, mail-in voting across the country has increased steadily since 1996, according to Pew Research. According to the secretary of the state’s office, in the 2016 general presidential election, 126,948, or 7 percent, of the 1.6 million votes cast in Connecticut were done by absentee ballot. A total of 2,532 of the absentee ballots, or about 2 percent, were rejected.
In southeastern Connecticut, among the 13 towns of East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, Montville, New London, North Stonington, Norwich, Old Lyme, Preston, Salem, Stonington and Waterford, 21,790 total votes were cast in the 2020 Republican and Democratic presidential primaries combined. A total of 12,977, or about 60 percent, of those votes were absentee. And 168 of the absentee ballots were rejected.
“The rejection rate was roughly 2 percent, which matches the historical rejection rate,” Secretary of the State spokesman Gabe Rosenberg said of the 2020 primary election.
Rosenberg listed some of reasons why an absentee ballot may be rejected.
“All absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day – that is the most common problem with absentee ballots,” he said. “After that, voters should be sure to place their ballot, and only their ballot, into the inner envelope, sign, date, and seal the inner envelope, and place the inner envelope inside the outer envelope! Some voters forget to sign the inner envelope, which means their ballot cannot be counted.”
The region’s town clerks agreed with Rosenberg’s assessment.
“I checked with the Registrars of Voters, and the reasons (for rejection) had to do with not signing the ballot envelope and not filling out the absentee ballot correctly,” North Stonington Town Clerk Antoinette Pancaro said about the possibility of rejected ballots.
“The most popular reason is the voter did not sign the inner envelope, or they did not insert the ballot into the inner envelope at all,” Montville Town Clerk Katie Sandberg said.
Absentee Voting Thus Far
As of Friday, 154,514 Connecticut voters had already sent in their absentee ballots ahead of the general election, and 559,716 absentee ballot applications had been submitted, according to numbers from the secretary of the state’s office. Those applying to vote absentee so far include 274,320 Democrats, 191,080 unaffiliated voters, 86,180 Republicans and 8,136 voters from other parties.
In the 13 local towns, more than 36,000 absentee ballots have been requested for the November election, and more than 11,000 have already been returned.
Of the absentee ballots requested in the region, 17,366 were from Democrats, 13,048 were from unaffiliated voters, 5,251 were from Republicans and 594 were from people registered with other parties.
Of the absentee ballots returned in the region, 6,155 were from Democrats, 3,311 were from unaffiliated voters, 1,404 were from Republicans and 153 were from other parties.
©2020 The Day (New London, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.