Over a third of Ridgefield voters seek absentee ballots

Town Clerk Wendy Lionetti shows off the ballot drop box on Bailey Avenue near a side entrance to town hall.

Town Clerk Wendy Lionetti shows off the ballot drop box on Bailey Avenue near a side entrance to town hall.

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

More than one-third of Ridgefield’s nearly 20,000 voters have sought absentee ballots, and there are still a couple of weeks before the election.

“It’s off the charts,” said Town Clerk Wendy Lionetti, “because everyone received the application and everyone is allowed to vote absentee because of COVID.”

Normally, in Connecticut, absentee balloting is only people who are sick, injured or have some other legitimate reason why they can’t get the polls on Election Day.

“We’re up to 6,900 issued,” Lionetti said in the late morning Tuesday, Oct. 20.

“... Compared to a regular election year when we’d issue, up until Election Day, in the low 2,000s.”

There were 19,487 active registered voters in Ridgefield when Lionetti spoke on Tuesday — so the 6,900 absentee ballots requested is about 35 percent of voters.

“A lot of new people in town,” Lionetti said.

There will of course also be regular Election Day voting, as well.

“In Ridgefield, voters have two options,” said League of Women Voters President Marilyn Carroll. “They can vote by absentee ballot and drop off their ballot at the secure ballot drop box at the Town Hall entrance on Bailey Avenue or mail it in to Town Hall at 400 Main St.; or they can vote in person on Nov. 3 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at their designated polling location at Yanity Gym, East Ridge Middle School or Scotts Ridge Middle School.

“Whichever option a voter chooses, they need to know that all votes will be counted, and their Ridgefield election officials are doing an excellent job securing all absentee ballots and ensuring that all three polling places will follow strict safety, sanitizing and social distancing rules to protect voters and poll workers,” Carroll said.

Getting registered

Although Connecticut now has Election Day registration — at Town Hall, not the polling stations in Ridgefield — there remains a deadline on Oct. 27, a week before the election, by which voters can register through the normal process in Town Hall or online and then vote at their district polling station on Election Day.

“Before anyone can vote in Ridgefield, they have to be registered to vote in Ridgefield,” said Carroll. “The Oct. 27 deadline is fast approaching and the easiest way for citizens who have a Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles issued ID, driver’s license or driver’s permit is to register online at https://voterregistration.ct.gov.

“Citizens who can’t register online can download a voter registration form at https://voterregistration.ct.gov/OLVR/welcome.do and mail it in or drop it off at Town Hall, 400 Main S., Ridgefield, CT 06877,” Carroll said

“The registrars of voters can be reached at 203-431-2771 (D) or 203-431-2772 (R) for more information or to make an appointment to register in person,” Carroll said.

“If a citizen misses the October 27 deadline to register, Election Day Registration will be available at the Ridgefield Town Hall from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bring ID, and be prepared to wait in line.”

Lionetti, the town clerk, said workers in her office had been expecting an oversized amount of absentee balloting.

“We knew this was going to happen. We prepared. We feel pretty confident. We’re keeping up,” she said. “It’s just hammer down all day long, non-stop — in addition to our regular work, because it’s very busy with the mortgage rates so low, with people refinancing. And the real estate market is very busy, too.”

In person absentee

People who want to vote absentee can do it in person at Town Hall.

“We are actually issuing ballots in the lower level of Town Hall, right now,” Lionetti said. “So if someone wanted their absentee ballot and didn’t want it to go through the mail — some people are very concerned about that — we’re here Monday through Friday, issuing strictly absentee ballots in the lower level lobby, Bailey Avenue entrance, through Friday, Oct. 30.”

The lower level absentee balloting is open regular town hall hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

There will be a special absentee voting hours the Saturday for just before the election — which is also Halloween.

“We’ll be coming upstairs and doing only absentee ballots on Saturday, Oct. 31,” Lionetti said. “We’re not going to be doing any other business.”

The absentee balloting on Saturday, Oct 31, will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. upstairs in the town clerk’s office — accessible though the Main Street entrance.

The last day for in-person absentee voting at the town clerk’s office will be Monday, Nov. 2 — the day before Election Day.

Drop box

Alongside Town Hall on Bailey Avenue is the official drop box where people who’ve received their absentee ballots can put them without worrying about postal delivery.

“Many people are using the drop box, yes,”said Lionetti. “It’s good, It’s great.”

She noted, however, that people should only use the drop box in the town they vote in. Someone who works in Stamford shouldn’t drop their Ridgefield vote in a box down there.

“Our ballot box is for Ridgefield ballots only. The Stamford ballot box is for Stamford votes only,” Lionetti said.

“I don’t know why, we received a Stamford ballot and a Wilton ballot in our ballot box.”

Ridgefield even got a ballot from New York City.

“We received one for Brooklyn in our ballot box,” Lionetti said. “Maybe someone lives in Brooklyn, but they’re temporarily staying in Ridgefield.”

Carroll, the League of Women voters president, had some additional advice and information.

“Voters can confirm their voter registration and polling location at https://portaldir.ct.gov/sots/LookUp.aspx,” she said. And for those who have already sent in their absentee ballot application request and subsequently their absentee ballot, the same look-up link will tell them when their application and ballot was received by Town Hall.

“It is important to remember that to vote by absentee ballot a voter must fill out an absentee ballot application,” Carroll said. “Applications with the COVID-19 excuse were mailed out to voters in September, however, if a voter did not receive an application in the mail, they can download the form by going to: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/SOTS/ElectionServices/Absentee-Ballot-Application-ED-3/ED-3-Rev-20-Final.pdf

“Sign and date it, and drop it off at the Ballot Box at the Bailey Avenue Entrance at Town Hall, or return it via the USPS to the Town Clerk, 400 Main St, Ridgefield CT 06877,” Carroll said. “The Town Clerk can be reached at 203-431-2783 to answer questions about an application or ballot.)

“Absentee ballots were mailed out beginning Oct. 2 to those who sent in an application. Ballots will continue to be mailed out as applications are received,” she said.

Seal, date, sign

“Follow the instructions carefully! Here are some tips: Insert your completed ballot into the inner envelope, seal it, date it, and then sign your name on the space with the ‘X’ on the outside of the envelope,” Carroll said.

“This is very important, if the inner envelope is not signed and dated, the ballot cannot be counted!

“Place the inner envelope inside the outer mailing envelope and seal it. Drop the envelope off at the Town Hall Entrance on Bailey Avenue or mail to the Town Clerk at Ridgefield Town Hall at 400 Main Street, Ridgefield CT 06877.

For more information about voting or visiting Town Hall during the pandemic, call 203-431-2700. Normal hours are: Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“We’re down to the home stretch,” Lionetti said.