Secretary Merrill Announces More than $2.3 Million in Election Grants to Support Local Election Officials in 2020
Absentee Ballot Support Grant to Give Town Clerks the Resources Necessary for Unprecedented Amount of Absentee Ballots - $1,446,693
Safe Polls Grant to Ensure Safe Polling Places - $865,500
Election Day Registration Access Grant to Help Registrars Handle Increased Election Day Registration Volume - $50,000
Total Aid for the 2020 Primary and General Election Totals Close to $10 Million
HARTFORD - Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today announced more than $2,300,000 in three election grants directly to Connecticut's 169 towns for the 2020 general election, bringing total aid for the 2020 election to almost $10,000,000. This aid comes from three tranches of federal grant money, CARES Act, HAVA I, and HAVA II, that were earmarked for making polling places safe, securing election cybersecurity infrastructure, and expanding access to absentee ballots.
"The 2020 election is happening under circumstances that were unthinkable just eight months ago, and my office and registrars of voters and town clerks across the state are working hard to ensure that every Connecticut voter is able to safely cast their vote without jeopardizing their health," said Secretary Merrill. "This unprecedented effort to ensure that the 2020 election is safe, secure, and accessible to every voter has ensured that absentee ballots are available to every voter who wants one, polling places are safe for voters who choose to vote in person and for poll workers, and our elections are protected against the ongoing threat of foreign interference."
The Absentee Ballot Support Grant is given to the towns so that town clerks have the resources to process, mail out, and count a record-breaking number of absentee ballots. 2020 is the first election in Connecticut history where every voter is able to vote by absentee ballot if they choose to do so. The grant assumes that 80% of registered voters will chose to vote in 2020, and that 66% of those voters will choose to vote by absentee ballot, and grants towns $1 for each voter through the 10,000th projected voter and $2 for each additional voter more than 10,000. Should more voters cast absentee ballots than projected, towns will receive additional grant money in the same amounts. The Absentee Ballot Support Grant projects more than 1.1 million votes cast by absentee ballots, for a total grant amount of $1,446,693. This is in addition to the $2 million dollars spent on printing and postage for the absentee ballot applications and ballots in the primary, the $2.1 million on printing and postage for the absentee ballot applications for the general, the $500,000 for Secure Ballot Drop Boxes, and the $1.1 million on postage for the absentee ballot packages and completed ballots for the general.
"The nature of COVID-19 as a contagious virus that passes through direct person-to-person contact necessitated expanding access to absentee ballots so no voter had to choose between their health and their right to vote," said Secretary Merrill. "The $1.4 million Absentee Ballot Support Grant is designed to give Connecticut's 169 town clerks the resources they need to make sure every one of their constituents is able to vote by absentee ballot in November if they so choose. Although ensuring that every voter will be able to participate in our democracy in the face of a global pandemic will be incredibly difficult, my office is able to leverage federal grant money to ensure that every town is able to provide for every one of their voters."
The Safe Polls Grant is given to the towns to ensure that polling places are safe for voters and poll workers alike. Although voters can choose to vote by absentee ballot, Connecticut's polling places will be open on Tuesday November 3rd. The Safe Polls Grant gives towns $1,000 per polling place, with a minimum of $2,500 per town. The total grant amount is $865,500. This grant is in addition to the more than $500,000 expended for the Safe Polls Grant for the primary, providing PPEs to each of Connecticut's 750 polling places in the primary and the general, and deep cleaning services.
"Voters who choose to vote in person, and the poll workers who help them, also need a healthy environment in which to vote," said Secretary Merrill. "The Safe Polls Grant is critical to ensure that every polling place has the protective equipment and cleaning supplies necessary to keep voters and poll workers safe."
The Election Day Registration Access Grant is given to the top twenty towns in terms of number of Election Day registrants in order to be prepared for a potential surge in new voters registering to vote on Election Day. Most of the towns included in this grant historically have larger number of Election Day registrants, and are cities whose citizens may be more mobile, towns that host large universities, or both. Each of the twenty towns is granted $2,500 and the total grant amount is $50,000.
"Part of making sure that every voter is able to conveniently register and easily vote is making sure that every town has the resources they need to smoothly register voters on Election Day," said Secretary Merrill. "The Election Day Registration Access Grant recognizes that towns with highly mobile populations and towns that host large universities have greater need for resources devoted to registering voters on Election Day."
The Office of the Secretary of the State is also focused on protecting Connecticut's election cybersecurity infrastructure from foreign interference by helping towns to strengthen their local election infrastructure. Towns were offered $200,000 in 50/50 matching grants to replace outdated equipment, $350,000 in Cybersecurity Risk Assessments by the Connecticut National Guard, and the Secure Polls Grant of $220,000 conditioned on completing cybersecurity training and risk assessments by the Connecticut National Guard.
"Even as we are properly focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, threats to our election cybersecurity from Russia and other hostile foreign actors have continued," said Secretary Merrill. "From my office, to the state's Information Technology team, to the Connecticut National Guard, to local election officials in each town, Connecticut is committed to ensuring that our elections are free and fair, and that every valid vote cast is a vote counted."
All towns should receive their Safe Polls Grants for the primary election by the end of this week. The Safe Polls Grants for the general election, the Absentee Ballot Support Grants, and the Election Day Registration Access Grants will be sent to towns beginning next week.
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