Vote! But How?

Alert — and civic-minded — “06880” reader Jeff Seaver wants to vote by mail. But, he says, the state of Connecticut is not making it easy. He writes:

We’re all aware of issues with absentee ballots and voting drop boxes across the US. I assumed Connecticut would be exempt.

But if you choose to vote via absentee ballot from the State of Connecticut, and mail a request, here’s what you see:

1. The paperwork arrives in a fat envelope.

2. Whoever they hired for graphic design, it’s as if they offered a bonus for the least intuitive way humanly possible:

  • Key messages are buried in body text
  • Big headers contain unimportant information
  • There are 5 separate forms
  • English and Spanish versions are crammed side-by-side, and flipped onto both sides of an envelope, with no explanation
  • The paperwork arrives in several different colors (why?).

3. Once you’ve filled out your ballot, you might assume you should put it in the mailing envelope, and lick it shut. Then you figure out that’s the wrong envelope.

4. The ballot must go in a different envelope. (These instructions are buried on the back of a printed pamphlet labeled “General Election Statutes of the State of Connecticut.”)

5. You can’t easily open the mailing envelope, since you just glued shut. So you tear or slice it open. Now, even if you re-seal it with tape, you have a mailing envelope that looks tampered with.

6. After all this, you put the ballot in the smaller (correct) envelope, put that inside the larger (correct) mailing envelope, and seal it for mailing.

7. Then you spot a little purple handout still sitting on your desk that came in the paperwork.

8. The printed handout contains this warning:


To ensure that your ballot is received on time by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, please place your ballot into the secure drop box located in your town. Once deposited in the secure drop box, your ballot is considered received by the town.

Your ballot should be deposited in the secure drop box no later than 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2020.

Town Name                     WESTPORT

Drop Box Location          TOWN HALL, 110 MYRTLE AVE.  — REAR ENTRANCE

9. So: which is it? Do you mail this envelope (it Is clearly marked as a piece of US mail), or do you believe this form, which states you need to deliver the envelope to Town Hall if you want to ensure it’s received on time?

Could I figure all this out? I went to high school and everything. I could probably mail it, but my simple solution is: In an age when “In Everything We No Longer Trust” should be printed on our currency, I’m driving it over to the drop box.

26 responses to “Vote! But How?

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    I used this method this year for the first time. It isn’t simple. It isn’t straight- forward. And, if anybody cared, while the ballot itself is anonymous, the voter’s name was required on the multi-envelopes involved. I don’t like that, but I guess it’s currently the imperfect method of assuring “one person, one vote”. I always feel good after I vote and this year is no exception. I think I was even more pleased because now, come hell or high water or Covid-19, I’ve done my civic duty. But I didn’t get a “I Voted” sticker. 🙁

  2. A couple of us old doggies and two college grads each did our own with no problems. It’s not that difficult!

  3. Karen Solicito

    Something else we almost missed in the not well organized instruction pamphlet is the requirement to include a copy of your license (or other specific identification) if you’re a first time voter. So all you newly turned 18 yr olds that are voting for the first time be sure to look for that tiny paragraph in the instructions or just make a copy of your license and put it in the inner envelope with your ballot. Thank you and congratulations for becoming a voter!

  4. Didn’t seem that hard. Done and done.

  5. John L Krause

    Whine whine
    Sounds more like an anti-mail-in rant to me.
    Yes there are Two options for delivering your ballot. US Mail, Or, drop it in a drop-box. OMG, I have to make a Decision?

    Yes there are Two envelopes. This is for Privacy. Mailing/dropboxing you don’t have total privacy, so an outer envelope is used. Mr Seaver claims to have an edjumacation, so he should understand that. The Inner envelope is your Identification. Pre-printed. If you went in-person, you would Show your physical ID. This is the remote version.

    Oh, and, remember to Sign It. OMG, Sign my name?

    Please, spare me.

    This was a very simple task. Stop whining about it.

    • James Waldron

      Thank you John. What’s next, instructions on how to lick the envelope?

      Westport citizens have it rough. I can only hope and pray they get thru this.

  6. Thanks Jeff for pointing out all the possible things that can foil ones effort to vote by mail…..and I agree with you. It’s poorly done although it does contain all the information you need. That said I’d like to add one thing I learned. When I asked my wife if she wanted me to drive our ballots to town hall and drop them in the box (which is behind the building) She explained that I cannot put her ballot in the box. It needs to be done by the voter or be disqualified if you put in anyone else’s ballot but your own. I assume this box has a security camera pointed at it, don’t forget to smile and wave.

    • This is false.

      • ..If you read all the information of the poorly designed and complex instructions. A Pamphlet inserted with your absentee mail in ballot marked WARNING! (Sec.9-140b, G.S.) you would understand it’s not OK for someone else to drop your ballot in the box.

  7. My college freshman daughter told me yesterday that she completed her ballot in 5 minutes (she already prepared her vote selections) and she called it “a piece of cake”. Maybe it’s not that easy for all but this piece certainly came across like the state requires you to be a genius to vote by mail. It doesn’t ! Ironic to me so many cheer on vote by mail and then when they can, too hard! Com’n people.

  8. After sealing the wrong envelope, then messing it up trying to steam it open, I hit on the solution – phone a friendly lady in the Town Clerks office who will tell you to scotch tape the envelope closed and initial the tape – then, after receipt from the drop box in the “front” of Town Hall, which is at the back, Town adds its initial on the envelope to validate receipt of the ballot – and Bob’s your uncle!

  9. Wow. So you have to some reading 📖 big deal people it’s quite simple

  10. Even at my advanced age I had no problem with the ballot. You do have to look at the instructions but there’s no detective work necessary. And both mail and dropbox work.

  11. Hmmmm. I did this easily, quickly and with no confusion. But… I AM a woman, so maybe my ability to read and follow directions is more advanced? This was the easiest voting experience I have ever had.

  12. We voted by absentee ballot and did not find the process problematic. And here’s a shout out to the Registrar’s Office for their assistance when it came time for us to register to vote in Westport once again.

    My only potential issue: as having been always been lacking in artistic skills—I am probably the only kid who ever got an “F’ for a diorama project in the history of Coleytown El—I had to be extra careful in coloring in the ovals to mark down the individuals I was voting for. The same issue arises with the changed in-person ballots of recent years.

    Is there any way we can go back to the voting machines with the levers? That was so much easier for me—not to mention, I felt like I was actually voting with the old lever system instead of retaking the SATs.

    • I loved the bombes. The first time we voted in Brooklyn Borough hall, the primary was between Ed Koch (West Village Independent Dems) and Abe Beam (machine Dems). A person I knew had never used the bombe, and asked the inspector how they worked. He asked, “Who do you want to vote for?” Told Ed Koch, he said “Fine, so to register your vote, snap the lever down, and then snap it back up. That registers your vote, and when you pull the big lever to open the curtain, no one will see how you voted.”

  13. Just remember, if you are voting Republican, you have to use a red pen. If you are voting Democrat, use a blue pen. Just kidding 🙂

  14. Priscilla Long

    YIKES! I didn’t have any issues. I am sorry to hear that this process was so challenging. I voted last weekend and it all went smoothly. Could this be a partisan issue?

  15. Bill Strittmatter

    Hmmm. From the description, the Connecticut absentee ballot almost sounds like an illegal literacy test.

  16. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    The drop box is definitely the way to go. Young people should do what they did to shop and get food delivered for us “elderly”, and offer to take the ballots to the drop boxes for people who can’t do it for themselves. Young mobile family members should step up. Our mail keeps getting delivered to the houses next door or to a house up on Sturges with the same house number as ours. It’s only that we have all become friendly and go out of our way to bring the mail personally that we actually receive lots of our mail.

    • Ellen- an election law attorney cautioned me that each voter needs to drop their own ballot in the box. If its discovered that your ballot wasn’t put in the box by you it could be disqualified.

  17. We voted by mail and used the drop box. We found the instructions clear and had no problems understanding what was needed to complete the ballots. Very easy!

  18. Bobbi Essagof

    Jeff, I get the sarcasm but it really was very easy and I hope no one is discouraged from voting by drop box!