Denise Merrill: Changes to Connecticut’s Elections for 2021 and Beyond that You Need to Know

After universal absentee ballot access helped make the 2020 election one of the most successful elections in Connecticut history, despite a once-in-a-century global pandemic, the extension of the emergency changes from the 2020 election as a result of COVID-19 will allowConnecticut voters to cast their ballots in 2021 without risking their health.

Most importantly, once again, every Connecticut voter will have access to an absentee ballot in 2021 by checking the COVID-19 reason on their absentee ballot application. This change is in effect through the 2021 elections.

Here is a basic breakdown of what you need to know about changes to elections this year, and in the future.

Temporary Expansion of the COVID-19 Reason for Receiving an Absentee Ballot – Through the 2021 Election

This was the most successful election I’ve experienced while in office. For the first time in Connecticut history, due to the COVID-19 crisis, every Connecticut voter in 2020 was allowed to vote by absentee ballot if they chose to by checking the COVID-19 box on the application, and the response was overwhelming.

Last year, more people voted by absentee than ever before in Connecticut history: More than 650,000 voters, 35% of the total ballots cast!

One again in 2021, every voter will have access to an absentee ballot if they want one. Simply check the COVID-19 box on the absentee ballot application – every voter is eligible to do so – and return it to the town clerk in your town and your town clerk will issue you an absentee ballot. 

You can get the application directly from your town clerk or you can download and print it out at myvote.ct.gov/absentee. Absentee ballots will be available starting on October 1 for the November 2 election.

Expansion of Permanent Absentee Ballot Status to Voters with a Long-Term Illness

Voters with a permanent disability have always been allowed to sign up for the permanent absentee ballot list, so they do not need to request an absentee ballot for every election. Starting this year, and extending into the future, voters suffering from long-term illnesses are also eligible to sign up for this list, so they do not have to request an absentee ballot for each election.

Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes:

In 2020, each town was given at least one and as many as four safe and secure absentee ballot drop boxes. Thesedrop boxes improved access and convenience for Connecticut voters and were instrumental to the success of the 2020 election despite the COVID crisis. These secure drop boxes allow voters to deliver their absentee ballots themselves without having to rely on the US Postal Service.

These secure absentee ballot drop boxes were made permanent and will be a feature of every Connecticut election going forward.

Automatic Voter Registration: 

The expansion of Automatic Voter Registration from the DMV to other state agencies will both make registering to vote more convenient for Connecticut citizens and help the registrars of voters of both parties in each town to keep accurate voter lists. To make sure your voter registration information is up to date, you can go online to: myvote.ct.gov/lookup.

People on Parole Can Now Vote:

Allowing people on parole to vote, as people on probation already are able to do, is an expansion of voting rights in Connecticut that will ease confusion and help reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into the civic life of their communities.

No voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and casting their vote – and in Connecticut in the 2020 election, no voter was forced to make that choice. This year, voters won’t have to make that choice either.

We all should be proud that our state is moving to make voting safer and more convenient for every Connecticut citizen so they can make their voices heard. Thanks to the efforts and advocacy of groups like AARP of Connecticutand the Connecticut League of Women Voters, who organized for change and educated the public as to how to vote safely, we were able to expand access to the absentee ballots for 2021 and make registering to vote and casting a ballot more convenient for every Connecticut citizen.


Denise Merrill is the current Connecticut Secretary of the State. Merrill was previously a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

A Democrat, Merrill was first elected to office in 1994 and served as the House Majority Leader after being elected to that position prior to the 2009 legislative session and until becoming Secretary of the State. 

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