Westport sees increase in absentee ballot applications as primary nears

An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020.

An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — With primaries scheduled for Aug. 11, several accommodations have been made locally and statewide to ensure residents can cast their vote safely despite the pandemic — and residents are taking advantage of it.

According to the town clerk’s office, 2,989 registered Democrats and 742 registered Republicans have applied for absentee ballots as of the beginning of this week. In comparison, 3,788 total voters cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary in 2016, 355 of them using absentee ballots; 2,379 Republican voters cast their ballot in that party’s primary in 2016, with 159 voting absentee.

“Everyone is being cautious and taking advantage of this vote-by-mail,” Town Clerk Patricia Strauss said. “It’s hard to call it absentee ballot anymore because people are going to be in town ... I believe we may see the changeover to it being called vote-by-mail.”

According to the clerk’s office, there are 7,938 Democrats and 4,068 Republicans currently registered in town.

Westport, like other municipalities across the state, will also soon receive a designated box for voters to drop their absentee ballots off. Strauss said the box will be near the entrance of town hall in the rear of the building.

“We are prepared and ready and we have the location ready,” she said. “It will be manned by staff out of my office only.”

The drop box will be accessible 24 hours a day for residents, she said, and her staff will look to check it twice a day.

“The drop box allows the voter to feel confident and comfortable that their ballot has made it to town hall in a timely manner,” Strauss said, adding it’s possible the method may be used for the presidential election on Nov. 3.

The Public Works Department has also made the back sidewalk ADA compliant for anyone who needs to drop their ballot off, she said.

In Westport, there is a Republican primary for the state Senate seat in District 26 between Kim Healy and William Duff. Town-by-town sample ballots for the primaries can be seen at the Secretary of the States office.

Strauss said one polling location will also be opened at Bedford Middle School from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for voters who choose not to use absentee ballots or vote-by-mail.

“It will be air conditioned, it will have good traffic in and out, and only so many people will be allowed in the building at one time,” she said.