NORTH STONINGTON — With just a few days remaining before the first absentee ballots will be mailed to Connecticut voters, the town has already processed 634 applications.
Town Clerk Antoinette Pancaro and her staff are making adjustments to assure that all applications and ballots are processed in a timely, efficient manner.
North Stonington officials announced that, effective Tuesday, the town clerk's office will close to most business at 2 p.m. each day in order to accommodate requests for all of the up to 4,400 active registered voters in town who would use those election services.
"We know there will be a good turnout for this election, and this year more than others it is a guessing game as to how many people may seek to vote using absentee ballots," Pancaro said. "I just don't know what to expect."
Under the changed operations, Pancaro and First Selectman Michael Urgo each said the office would be open for all business including vault access from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. North Stonington Town Hall will remain open until 4 p.m., but the clerk's office will shift gears to processing any mail-in applications during the afternoon hours to stay ahead of requests.
Absentee ballots, which will be mailed to registered voters who have already requested one, will also be processed beginning next week.
Those seeking to obtain or fill out an application, or those who would like to drop off their ballots, will still be allowed to do so during the closed hours. Residents may also mail the applications or ballots, or drop them off in the designated CT ballot collection box in front of town hall.
The town's polling places will also be open on Election Day, Nov. 3, and both Pancaro and Urgo said there would be protocols to assure social distancing for everyone to safely vote in-person if they choose to do so. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"We want to make sure that everyone has a voice and that everyone has a vote, but we need to manage the workload for our staff," Urgo said. "These changes will allow them to be election-focused as needed to serve whatever number of requests they receive."
During the Connecticut primary, more than half of all participating voters in the state elected to use the absentee-ballot system. With the tally of coronavirus cases showing a slight uptick in the past few weeks, officials said they anticipate that at least as many would be likely to vote by absentee ballot for the presidential election.
According to data from the Connecticut Secretary of State, North Stonington received just 196 absentee ballots during the 2016 Presidential election out of 3,348 voters who cast ballots. The town had a 79.92% turnout during the election.
With a charged political climate, state officials said they anticipate a turnout of 80% or even higher in many Connecticut municipalities this year.
Pancaro said that over the coming weeks, the office will continue to "play it by ear" and will adjust further if needed, or would consider reopening from 2 to 4 p.m. if the volume subsides. Until Nov. 3, however, she said the clerk's election responsibilities must be a top priority.
"We will do what we can to make sure we serve everyone's needs, but we also have a responsibility to make elections the priority," Pancaro said.
Absentee ballots will be made available beginning Friday, Oct. 2, and must be received before Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. in order to be counted.
To be eligible to apply for an absentee ballot, voters must first be properly registered with the state. For more information on how to register, visit portal.ct.gov/SOTS or contact the town's registrar of voters. Registration applications must be submitted prior to 8 p.m. on Oct. 27 to register for the November election.
For a complete timeline of elections deadlines and information, visit www.northstoningtonct.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4806/f/uploads/voting_flowchart.pdf.