Fasano Responds to Secretary Merrill Seeking Extension for Absentee Ballots

August 10, 2020

HARTFORD – Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) released the following statement in response to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill calling for an extension for absentee ballots to be counted after the August 11, 2020 primary election. The extension request comes as many voters saw a delay in receiving ballots, and some have yet to receive an absentee ballot, following issues with the third-party mail house hired to mail applications and ballots:


“This is an admission by Secretary Merrill that her system failed. She’s trying to blame everyone, including the weather, for her errors. This is not the fault of a storm, it’s not the fault of the postal service, and it’s not the fault of town clerks. Secretary Merrill’s third-party mail house missed multiple deadlines and delayed sending ballots. Instead of recognizing the issues early on, she dismissed and ignored warnings several times and spent more time pointing her finger at others than on fixing the problems. We would not be in this situation if the ballots went out on time and if she let towns handle absentee ballots as they always have. She let people believe she could handle creating a whole new system, but she misled the public and now she’s looking for the governor to bail her out. Governor Lamont should not be responsible for cleaning up Secretary Merrill’s mistakes.


“Especially when we have drop boxes outside of town halls, as Secretary Merrill herself advocated for, you can’t blame power outages or mail service for not getting in a ballot on time. Even Secretary Merrill’s own proposal estimates mail postmarked on Tuesday would be received by Thursday, a quick turnaround by the postal service. The only reason for a delayed absentee ballot is because Secretary Merrill’s system didn’t send them to people on time, putting their vote at risk.


“Secretary Merrill always said you shouldn’t have to choose between your health and voting. But now her system is going to result in forcing people to go to the post office to get their ballot stamped putting them at risk because she could not fulfill her promises. It is my understanding that absentee ballots are NOT postmarked when mailed and would need to be stamped in a post office. This would require voters to go into a post office to get a ballot timestamped. It’s now after 4:30 PM on Monday, and anyone who mailed a ballot today without getting it postmarked are at risk for being disenfranchised if their ballot doesn’t reach town hall tomorrow.


“This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. This is a primary election where no parties are running against one another. This is about doing the right thing. Extending deadlines at the last hour because of problems Secretary Merrill knew existed for weeks and did nothing to address is a dangerous precedent to set.


“There is no contract that the Secretary of the State has with the mail house to define dates certain of applications or ballots going out. This is the mainstay of the problems we are now facing,” said Fasano, as he pointed to the following issues caused by Secretary Merrill’s third-party mail house system in recent days:


  • The mail house missing multiple statutorily required deadlines to send out ballots in July.  A significant delay in mailing of absentee ballots. State law required the mail house to send ballots out by July 21, 2020. Only after they failed to meet this deadline was notice sent to town clerks that the mailings were sent July 27, 2020. And only after people continued raising questions did the Secretary of the State indicate that only some ballots were mailed July 27, 2020, and the remainder would be sent “in the coming days.”


  • At least 20,000 ballots not being sent out by the mail house. The mail house ending the processing of applications earlier than the August 3 date they were scheduled to shift the remaining requests to town halls. This led to 20,000 ballots not being sent out and an unmanageable number falling to the town clerks to scramble to send out. This includes massive numbers in Hartford and Bridgeport.


  • Reports that people received envelopes in the mail from the mail house with no ballot inside, leaving residents and town clerks scrambling to replace missing ballots last minute.


  • People who are already out of town not receiving their absentee ballot in time to cast a vote because of these delays. 


  • The envelope labeling system from the third party mail house is not in compliance with state statute and significant issues reported by town clerks including:
    • Confusing and conflicting instructions regarding the opening of outer absentee ballot envelopes issued by the mail house.
    • There is missing information from the inner envelopes including completely dropping the serial number from the inner envelope. Town clerks have said inner envelopes only contain the voter ID and barcode is present. There is information missing which is needed for processing the return.
    • An issue was discovered with scanning the returned absentee ballots back into CVRS. The barcode on the mail house envelope is set-up to read the serial number assigned to the envelope. However, CVRS is programmed to scan the voter ID number. When the barcode is scanned on the mail house envelope an error message will appear on the screen.
    • The only address on the inner envelope is the mailing address, therefore if you mailed the AB to an address within your city or town, it is safe to presume that is the voter’s voting (residential) address; however, if the ballot was mailed to summer home, college student, etc., you are unable to ascertain from the envelope the voter’s residential address.
    • The only instructions the voter will receive are printed on the inner envelope. And, the instructions refer to an outer “serial number” envelope that does not exist. (No separate sheet of instructions.)
    • There is no box for the designee to sign when delivering the ballot in person to the Town Clerk’s office.


  • The mailing of ballots from the mail house included military voters whose ballots have already been previously sent to her or her earlier either by email or mail according to town clerks.