Wilton’s Town Clerk Readies for Election 2020 in a COVID-19 World: “Could Be 8,000 Absentee Ballot Applications”

In the new, COVID-19 world, Wilton Town Clerk Lori Kaback‘s already difficult job gearing up for Election 2020 has suddenly become exponentially more complicated.

As Town Clerk, Kaback is responsible for processing absentee ballot applications submitted by Wilton voters. Her office will send absentee ballots to anyone who applies correctly.

This year, changes made at the state level will give all Connecticut voters the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot this year, simply by checking off “COVID-19” as a reason for wanting to vote by mail rather than in person.

Moreover, the Secretary of State will be mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters, beginning this week. Applications are also available online and newly registered voters will receive an application from Wilton’s Registrars of Voters.

As a result, this year, not only is Kaback putting new procedures in place to respond to the pandemic threat but she also anticipates having to process up to 8,000 possible absentee ballot applications, all well before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

At the Tuesday evening, Sept. 8 Board of Selectmen meeting, Kaback described what the responsibility entails and preparations that are underway.

“Processing 8,000 applications … will require an equivalent of one person for 38 weeks. We only have four to five weeks,” she said.

Kaback will handle it by increasing staff overtime, getting assistance from employees in other departments, and hiring part-time personnel. Starting Sept. 28 through Nov. 4, she’ll also reduce the hours for the town clerk’s office from five days a week to three days a week, opening only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

“So we have two full days to just process absentee ballots,” she said.

Four COVID-approved work stations have been built in Town Hall’s Meeting Room B where applications will be processed.

What Voters Need to Know About Applying for an Absentee Ballot

Getting an absentee ballot is uncomplicated–if the right steps are followed.

Some voters have already sent in applications. “I probably have 400 to 500 already. We just cannot process them until Oct. 2,” Kaback noted.

What voters need to be aware of, however, is making sure they’re using the correct absentee ballot application.

Some voters have incorrectly used the application for the Aug. 11, 2020, primary election. Anyone who may have done so must resend the correct form for the November general election.

Kaback would prefer that voters use the absentee ballot applications being mailed to voters and arriving within the next week.

“This application has a unique ID number [by voter]. We can scan this in, and it just makes it easier for us. So I encourage everybody if they can wait until the application comes to them at their Wilton address, to please use that one,” Kaback said, adding that those applications will also include a return postage-paid envelope. Voters should not share their unique ID number with other voters; doing so will delay application processing.

Voters can return the application in several ways:

  1. Mail it to the Town Clerk using the return postage-paid envelope
  2. Return it using the drop-off box at Town Hall
  3. Deposit it in the secure ballot box outside Wilton Police Headquarters.
  4. Email or fax it. “If they do that, it’s important that they understand that they still have to mail me that original absentee ballot application with the wet signature either before election day or with their voted ballot.

Voting by Absentee Ballots

Kaback’s team will begin mailing ballots on Oct. 2. “People can choose to mail it back or they can put it in that ballot box located, again, by the Police Station,” she says.

Kaback has already begun checking that secure box twice a day, looking for applications. She says she’ll likely increase that to three times a day when ballots start to come in.

Absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on the day of the election, Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Selectwoman Deb McFadden asked if Kaback or the registrars have addressed what now may be a concern after President Trump suggested that voters who wanted to make sure their votes counted after voting by absentee should also go and vote in person–effectively voting twice.

Vanderslice answered McFadden:  “The bottom line to your question, Deb, there are procedures in place to ensure that nobody votes twice. There are checks and balances.”

Overall, Kaback said she’s sure, despite the several challenges, that her office will be able to handle whatever might come their way, even in a more complicated year.

“I’m pretty confident that we’re in a good place, we’re prepared.”

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