Madison Clerk’s Office Processing Huge Increase in Mail-In Ballots as System Sees Struggles
With Connecticut working to allow more access to absentee balloting during the pandemic, the Madison Town Clerk’s Office has seen a huge influx of mail-in votes for the Aug. 11 primary election, and the office’s five employees are fighting to keep up with the increased load after a state-contracted mail house stopped responding to the town.
Town Clerk Nancy Martucci said that more than 2,500 ballots have been received by her office, with a temporary worker hired and everyone else putting in “a lot more hours” to ensure Madison residents get their ballots in time for Aug. 11.
For a comparison, the town saw a little fewer than 300 votes cast—both in person and absentee—in the last presidential primary in 2016.
“This is an enormous amount over what we’re used to doing,” Martucci said.
In May, Governor Ned Lamont had signed an executive order that allowed absentee voting for the Aug. 11 primary for everyone as long as there was no federally approved, “widely available” vaccine for COVID-19 by the election date.
During last month’s special legislative session, the state allowed so called “no-excuse” absentee ballot voting during the election, which means those worried about their health during the pandemic can send in a ballot by mail instead of showing up to a polling location, which Martucci said has inspired more ballot requests by Madison voters, though that legislation mostly deals with the November election.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill promised in May that every “eligible voter” would receive an absentee ballot application for the Aug. 11 primary by mail, which could then be mailed to the town clerk.
Under that plan, the clerk’s office then verifies and sends that voter’s information to a mail house contracted by the state, which will mail the individual voter’s ballot to them in time to be postmarked for the election.
A big issue arose last week when the mail house stopped sending out ballots—nothing after July 27, according to Martucci. Martucci said she could not even verify that the mail house was receiving anything she sent to them, leading her to eliminate their part of the process and begin mailing the ballots herself.
“I had no confirmation at that point that ballots had been sent, or that my information had even been received,” she said.
Another issue was that many Madison voters did not receive an explanatory letter packaged with their absentee voting application that offered directions on how to fill it out and what it was, something voters in other towns did receive, according to Martucci.
“I believe there were a number of voters that were confused when they got their application...I don’t believe there was any direction for them,” she said.
Martucci’s office is additionally dealing with an almost historic influx of other, non-election related work, specifically real estate recording as people refinance mortgages and sell and buy real estate.
Martucci said those are at their highest levels in 30 or 40 years, at least partially due historically low interest rates on mortgages during the pandemic.
“My staff has been ensuring that all of those documents are being turned around quickly as well so nothing is held up for someone’s closing or refinancing,” she said.
When asked if she was worried about not being able to process and get voters their ballots in time for the Aug. 11 date, Martucci simply said voters should get her their applications as soon as possible.
“I’m telling people, the sooner you get your application out to me, the quicker we can get a ballot out to you,” she said.
Martucci said she is keenly aware that this election will serve as a trial run for November, which is certain to draw much more voter participation.
“If I see what we’re doing here and what we can accomplish with this particular number of ballots, then I can determine how to staff for November,” she said.