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Last-minute order from Lamont OKs COVID as reason to vote absentee in Stamford special election

Brianna Gurciullo

April 8, 2021 | Updated: April 8, 2021 1:57 p.m.

STAMFORD — All voters in the 145th state House District can now use COVID-19 as a reason for seeking an absentee ballot for the April 27 special election, thanks to a new executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont.

For the August 2020 primary, thousands of Stamford residents sent in absentee ballots to be checked and organized by employees in the lobby of the Town Clerks office at the Stamford Government Center.

“While Connecticut has made significant progress in administering vaccines, significant portions of the population have not yet completed their course of vaccinations, and significant public health risks may still remain to poll workers and voters taking part in municipal elections and referendums,” Lamont’s order said.

Before Lamont signed the order on Tuesday, voters couldn’t fill out an application and use COVID as their reason for requesting an absentee ballot. They could only use one of six reasons listed in state law.

That was the case because a previous order by Lamont allowing voters to check COVID-19 as a reason for asking for an absentee ballot only applied to elections taking place before April 20 — the date his emergency powers were set to expire.

Late last month, both chambers of the General Assembly voted to extend those powers to May 20. Consequently, the new executive order by Lamont allows voters to select COVID as a reason for applying for an absentee ballot in any election being held before May 20.

The decision in Hartford was one Stamford’s mayor had been hoping for.

“Absentee ballots should be expanded to allow for greater participation in our democratic process,” Mayor David Martin told The Stamford Advocate before Lamont’s order was released.

Martin also said polling places will be adhering to public health guidelines so residents “can cast their vote without concern for their well-being.”

Absentee ballots for this month’s special election have been available since March 19, according to the Office of the Secretary of the State.

Democratic candidate Corey Paris and Republican candidate J.D. Ospina are vying for the 145th District seat. The seat became available after the longtime representative of the district, Patricia Billie Miller, won a special election to the state Senate in March.

The upcoming special election will be smaller than the March one. The March election was for the state Senate’s 27th District seat. That senatorial district includes part of Stamford as well as part of neighboring Darien. The 145th state House District only covers the city’s West Side and Waterside neighborhoods.

The state Senate election included 16 voting districts. The state House election includes three.

Stamford town clerk’s office issued 2,624 absentee ballots for the special election in March, and 2,158 were returned. The town clerk, Lyda Ruijter, noted that some ballots might have arrived at voters’ homes too late to be returned, and those voters might have instead gone to the polls.

For the April special election, voters can mail their applications to the town clerk’s office or drop them in a ballot box in the parking garage of the Government Center. They can also do either with their ballots.

Of the total number of absentee ballots issued, 2,053 went to Democrats, and 1,823 of those ballots were returned.

Forty-five percent of all the votes cast in the election were by absentee ballot, Ruijter said.

Ruijter said that an amended absentee ballot application for the April 27 special election has been posted to the city’s website.

Voters can mail their applications to the town clerk’s office or drop them in a ballot box in the parking garage of the Government Center. They can also do either with their ballots.

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