Connecticut towns make final preparations for Tuesday primaries as power is restored to polling places

With less than 20 hours before the polls open, state and town officials were making the final push Monday morning to ensure that the presidential primaries run smoothly.

After confusion over whether the state or town would be sending out last-minute absentee ballots, many voters received their ballots late and some headed to town halls to rectify the situation.

A major complicating factor in the primaries has been the fallout from Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out power to half of the state at its peak. Town halls not only need electrical power, but they also need internet service to have access to the state’s central voter registration system.

With 2,300 electric and tree crews on the ground, Eversource has been reconnecting town halls and polling places throughout the weekend and into Monday. The company has pledged to have virtually all power back by midnight Tuesday, but town officials say they need the power immediately to make their preparations for 20 primaries, which include presidential, Congressional, state legislative, and local races.

Gabe Rosenberg, the chief spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said the power situation is much better than last week.

“There’s seven town halls that have [internet] connectivity issues still, and Frontier is sending someone physically to those seven places to get them back online,‘’ Rosenberg said Monday. “There are seven polling places that don’t have power as of 9:45 a.m. [Monday], and all seven have generators.‘’

On Friday, at least 20 town halls still did not have power.

“Eversource knows how important this is to us, so they should be working on those seven’’ polling places, Rosenberg said. “That’s today’s priority.‘’

Both state and town officials are advising voters to personally drop off their ballots at the special drop boxes that are bolted to the ground at town halls before 8 p.m. Tuesday — when the polls close. They have advised since last week to avoid sending any ballots in the mail because ballots that arrive on Wednesday or Thursday will not be counted.

“The post office told us that every ballot in their system would be delivered today,” Rosenberg said Monday. “If you have not received your ballot as of today, contact your town clerk directly, and you can arrange pick up of the ballot.”

For those who have still not received their absentee ballots, officials are advising that they should head to their polling place Tuesday for in-person voting.

Town officials have been taking extraordinary measures to make sure that the voting runs smoothly. Karen E. Cortes, the Democratic registrar of voters in Simsbury, lost power at her home and was working from a hotel in order send emails and communicate with other officials. Two of her workers left the state because of the lack of power, but they were unable to return to work because of quarantine rules from traveling to hot spot states. She has since hired others to replace them.

Christopher Keating can be reached at [email protected]

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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