Data Suggests Few Absentee Ballots Late or Rejected in 2020

Despite the unusually large number of absentee ballots sent through the mail for the 2020 election, data shows that the percentage of rejected ballots across Connecticut was consistent with the prior 2016 elections. 

The Connecticut Examiner analyzed absentee ballot data from seven cities in Connecticut — New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, Hartford, Middletown, Danbury and Waterbury — in part to make this comparison.

In one example, out of the 8,659 absentee ballots that Middletown received, 99 were rejected. This represents 1.1 percent of the total number of absentee ballots received. Ashley Flynn-Natale, the town clerk, said that 20 of those ballots were rejected for arriving late. 

“It’s less than I expected, to be honest with you,” she said. 

In 2016, Middletown received 1,545 absentee ballots and rejected 32 — two percent of the total number of absentee ballots received. 

Middletown’s numbers are consistent with Connecticut’s overall numbers. 

Gabe Rosenburg, spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of the State, said that the state was able to reduce the overall percentage of rejected absentee ballots by half this election. In 2016 and 2018, the number generally hovered around 2 percent, he said. This election, only 1 percent of absentee ballots were rejected. 

According to data from the Secretary of the State’s website, the cities of New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, Hartford, Middletown, Danbury and Waterbury each accepted between 97 and 99 percent of all absentee ballots they received in the 2020 elections. 

New London and Waterbury rejected a higher percentage of absentee ballots this election than in 2016 — a difference of 1 percent for each. The other cities rejected a higher percentage of ballots in 2016. The largest difference was in Bridgeport, which rejected 7 percent of absentee ballots it received in 2016, but just 3 percent in 2020.

Connecticut’s cities also reported few ballots rejected for reasons of late arrival. Connecticut state law says that ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on election day cannot be counted. 

Hartford, which received 11,027 absentee ballots this year, rejected just 30 or 40 as late arrivals. New London rejected 12 ballots for late arrival out of a total of 3,575 received, and Danbury rejected 36 out of a total of 11,486 absentee ballots received. 

Rosenberg said he attributes the low numbers of late-arriving absentee ballots to the availability of dropboxes for residents to submit their ballots.

“It just made it so much easier to not be late,” he said. 

According to Rosenburg, the Secretary of the State’s office was happy with how the processing of ballots took place, and especially with the decrease in the number of ballots rejected. 

“It’s a pretty significant change,” he said. “It’s a big difference.” 

In a press release touting these numbers after the election, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill called for a constitutional amendment that would allow voters in Connecticut to vote by absentee ballot without needing to provide an excuse.  

“650,000-plus people voted by absentee ballot this year and it went smoothly,” said Rosenburg. “I think that’s an indication that voters want this option.”

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