Town registrars prepare for record high voter participation in this year’s election

Staffers in the Registrars of Voters office at Monroe Town Hall work at election time two years ago.

MONROE, CT — Passions are running high for this year’s Presidential Election and other federal and state positions are also at stake. The Monroe Registrars of Voters Office is reporting a record number of voter registrations, while bracing for high turnout on Election Day.

Margaret J. Villani, the Republican registrar, stuffed envelopes with notices of new voter registrations, along with application forms to vote by absentee, as the stack on her desk continued to grow Tuesday morning.

Katherine A. B. Briggs, the Democratic registrar, and deputy registrars Gary E. Zenobia, a Democrat, and Debra Dutches, a Republican, also busily worked among the vertical row of desks in their office at Monroe Town Hall.

“We’ve been getting over 100 new registrations a week,” Villani said. “Brand new, never mind changes.”

Margaret J. Villani, the Republican registrar of voters, holds a stack of envelopes filled with notices of new voter registrations and absentee ballot applications Tuesday.

Briggs said the new voter registrations are a mix of ages, from young and older people registering to vote for the first time to those who recently moved to town.

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of people who never voted before coming to the polls,” Villani said, adding of the voter rolls, “it’s higher than it’s ever been.”

Briggs said voter registrations grew from 13,063 voters on June 3 to 13,525 on Oct. 1.

Townspeople can still register to vote online until Oct. 27 by visiting The Secretary of the State’s website. After that, they can register in-person at Monroe Town Hall, 7 Fan Hill Road.

On Election Day, Nov. 3, people can still register to vote, same day, in the Council Chambers of Town Hall, but registrars encourage everyone to register before that.

The Safe Polls Plan

Town Clerk Vida Stone drove a load of boxes filled with 2,089 absentee ballots to the U.S. Post Office on Friday, but despite the dramatic increase in voting by absentee, the Registrars of Voters Office is still preparing for a high turnout at the polls, which will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

“In-person voting will be higher than it normally is,” Villani said, “but we don’t anticipate long lines. We get the people through quickly.”

The registrars came up with a Safe Polls Plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on voting day. Poll workers and voters will be required to wear masks and workers will also wear gloves.

All polling places will have hand sanitizers and plexiglass shields for workers who come into contact with voters, particularly those checking addresses with I.D.s. Rather than handing I.D.s to checkers, Villani said people will hold it up for them to look at.

Despite concerns over the pandemic, Monroe’s polls should be fully staffed on Election Day.

“We’ve had a great outpouring of volunteers from the community,” Briggs said.

“We’re very close to everyone being placed,” Villani added. “We might have one or two openings.”

But both registrars said they always encourage new volunteers to come forward, especially because polling places must be staffed for elections after this one. Those who are interested should call their office at 203-452-2820.

A drop box

The drop box for absentee ballots is outside the police station at 7 Fan Hill Road. Contributed

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill has mailed all eligible voters an absentee ballot application for the November 3, 2020 election. Town Clerk Vida Stone said Oct. 2 is the date the Town Clerk’s Office was permitted to mail absentee ballots to those voters who have requested one.

“It may be possible that you will receive your absentee ballot before another member in your household or a neighbor,” Stone said. “We ask for your patience as the post office will be mailing these in batches. Should you receive your absentee ballot and have any questions, please feel free to contact my office at 203-452-2800, ext. 1027, or email [email protected].”

“Once you have completed your absentee ballot, please use the official absentee ballot drop box located directly outside of the Monroe Police Department at 7 Fan Hill Road,” she said. “It is a secure location and is available 24/7. This drop box is checked throughout the day.”

Stone said additional instructions on the drop box will be included on the absentee ballots. This drop box is for absentee ballot applications as well.

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