Chris Oct. 29, 2020

I grew up in the 90's. The first election I really remember was 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated incumbent Pres. George H.W. Bush. Eight years later I was a junior in high school when the first president Bush's son, George W., narrowly edged Clinton's Vice-President Al Gore (whose running-mate was then-Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman) to win the presidency in 2000. That election came down to Florida and featured recounts, "chads" and a Supreme Court decision. When I was a senior in high school, our debate tournament question was whether the electoral college systemd should be replaced with a direct popular vote. As I'm sure you know, we still have the electoral college, but the debate has not ended.

The next presidential election is just days away (six days as of this writing). Millions of people have already voted in states that have early in-person voting. Millions of other voted by mail, either in states that have exclusive mail elections (including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Hawaii) or through no-excuse absentee voting, which has been expanded this year. Millions more will vote in-person on Tuesday. The following are some fast facts about this year's election and voting in general. 

  1. A presidential election is actually 51 individual elections for each state's and D.C.'s electoral votes. Many election laws are actually set by states, such as the manner of voting and polling hours. Several states have early in-person voting with Election Day being the end to voting. Connecticut does not because our state constitution sets our election day. 

  2. This year Connecticut broadened the use of absentee ballots to allow anyone to request one due to the current pandemic. That said, there are some important things to know.

    • Absentee ballots must be received (not postmarked) by 8pm on Election Day. They can be mailed or deposited in a dropbox. 

    • Absentee ballots can be processed (opened, checked, etc.) before Election Day but can only be counted on Election Day.

    • If you suffer a sudden illness or injury within six days of an election and did not previously request an absentee ballot, you can request an emergency absentee ballot. 

    • If you requested and received an absentee ballot, you still could vote in person as long as you do not return the absentee ballot (again, this pertains to Connecticut, other states have different rules). If an absentee ballot is received before Election Day, the voter is marked as having voted and can't vote in-person. Absentee ballots received on Election Day are compared with the in-person rolls. If the voter voted in-person, the ballot is not counted. Ballots received on Election Day are counted after polls close.

  3.  There is no requirement that states count their votes by the end of Election Day. States set their own deadlines for elections to be certified. In presidential elections, federal law specifies the date in December (Dec. 14 this year) on which electors meet to electorally vote for president and vice-president. The "calling" of states for a candidate on Election Night is really news agencies projecting a winner using a combination of polling data and actual vote counts.

For more information, go to the Secretary of the State's website or contact your town or city clerk.  

If you've made it this far and would like to read my latest op-ed, which ran last week in the New Haven Register, Connecticut Post, Danbury News-Times and other newspapers, go here