Election Day is officially still weeks away but in Old Lyme, East Lyme, and Lyme a lot of people have already cast their ballots. Town Clerks have been busy with voters coming in to pick up absentee ballots and many of them are voting right then and there.
Laurie and Richard Ranelli of East Lyme aren't among the many undecided voters this election. When they came into East Lyme Town Hall on October 12, they were ready to vote.
Richard Ranelli has voted via absentee ballot for the past five years or so. "It's the best way to do it," he said. "I would vote on the day but I'm either away on business or I'm just away. This way I don't have to worry about it."
His wife, Laurie, said she's voting by absentee ballot for the first time this year, because both of them are going to be out of town on November 6. As neither one of them has any reservations about the candidates for whom they're voting, they saw no reason to wait to mail in a ballot.
As long as people fill in the paper work required to assure Town Clerks that they are legal residents entitled to vote in the election, people who aren't going to be around on Election Day can cast their ballots right away at town hall.
Our Towns Are Already Halfway There
As of October 12, East Lyme had given out about 500 absentee ballots. The previous presidential election more than 1,000 residents voted by absentee ballot.
In Old Lyme, 256 people had come in for absentee ballots as of Friday. That's also about half as many as the total number they had for the last presidential election, when 574 people voted by absentee ballot.
In Lyme, as of Oct. 12, the town clerk had given out 53 absentee ballots and sent off five overseas ballots. Last election, 195 town residents voted by absentee ballot.
"We have a lot of snowbirds," said East Lyme Town Clerk Lesley A. Blais. "As long as we have [the ballots] on November 6, they will be counted."
A steady stream of people have been coming into our town clerks' offices to vote and when you see how easy it is—no lines, no waiting, no messing about with machines—it's tempting to ask for an absentee ballot just to avoid the hassle. Town clerks know that there are people who abuse the system but the rules for absentee voting are strict and are posted clearly at every town hall.
"Many parents, caregivers, and spouses have inquired about filling out and signing absentee ballot applications for their children, spouses and family members they might care for," the signs read. "Please be aware that no one is permitted by law to sign an application for another individual, child or not, who is physically capable of signing their own name themselves. Just not being present to sign does not constitute not being able to sign."
Furthermore, although absentee voting is very convenient, the only people who can legally vote via absentee ballot are people who aren't able to be physically present on Election Day. You break these rules at your own risk because, as Lyme Town Clerk Linda Winzer notes, this kind of voter fraud "is a class D felony."
When, Where, and How to Vote Via Absentee Ballot
That being said, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is encouraging all those who are eligible to vote by absentee ballot to act now.
"I urge any registered voters who know they will be out of town or otherwise unable to make it to their polling place on Election Day to apply for an absentee ballot now,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Connecticut’s chief elections official. “Don’t put off applying for an absentee ballot until it is too late – make sure you have a say in who represents you in Hartford and Washington, D.C. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, the final deadline to register is Tuesday, October 30, and I urge all eligible voters in Connecticut: don’t sit on the sidelines! Register to vote so your voice will be heard on Election Day!”
To obtain an absentee ballot, registered Connecticut voters can download an application from the Secretary of the State’s website www.sots.ct.gov or local town websites, or they can contact their local town clerk’s office to pick up an application in-person or receive one through the mail.
After the applications are submitted, absentee ballots will be sent to registered voters who request them within days. Absentee ballots must be signed and can be returned through the mail or in-person. In order to be counted for the general election, absentee ballots must be received by town clerks no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 6, 2012.