‘We have a tight system’ — Milford city clerk confident as absentee ballots pour in

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
An absentee ballot drop box outside of Milford City Hall.

An absentee ballot drop box outside of Milford City Hall.

Karen Fortunati /

MILFORD — With two weeks to go before Election Day, Milford election officials already have received nearly quadruple the number of absentee ballots as they did during the entire 2016 election cycle. And with every mail delivery, hundreds more arrive.

But City Clerk Karen Fortunati isn’t worried. On Monday, she assured Milford voters that the office was well up to the task of handling such a large volume of votes.

“We have a tight system here,” she said. “The system is pretty easy with the absentee ballot drop boxes — there are three of them in Milford.”

The drop boxes are in front of City Hall, at the Parsons Building and at Milford Police Headquarters. Voters also can come to City Hall or call 203-783-3210 if they have concerns or questions.

“If they’re worried about whether or not their ballot was received, all they need to do is call us,” Fortunati said. “We can look it up tell them yes and when.”

Additionally, she said if voters feel more comfortable, the can fill out their absentee ballot in the office.

“Given the heightened anxiety of this year, this election, and the pandemic, they are more than welcome to do everything in our office, in person,” she said. “Submit their application, get their ballot, vote here and turn it into us.”

This year there has been a huge increase in people using absentee ballots to vote. Fortunati said her office has already issued 11,040 ballots and received more than 7,000 back. In the 2016 election, the office issued 1,955 absentee ballots, she said, and 1,869 were returned.

Between 400 and 1,000 absentee ballots are coming in every day.

Political party

The political affiliation of those requesting absentee ballots has also changed greatly from 2016, with new Democrats outnumbering new Republican voters more than 2-1.

Approximately 4,700 Democrats, 1,600 Republicans and 4,400 unaffiliated voters requested an absentee ballot this year. To contrast, in 2016, 685 Democrats, 497 Republicans, and 652 unaffiliated voters requested an absentee ballot.

“As COVID is rising, more people are choosing to vote by absentee ballot than they would have before — that’s just my guess,” she said.

Fortunati said concerns among voters has been rising as Election Day nears.

Additionally, there has been several voters who have called the office or visited in person, saying they didn’t fill out their ballot correctly and would like to correct it.

Voters may also change their mind about voting absentee.

“If somebody changes their mind after returning their absentee ballot to this office, then they can withdraw their ballot in person and vote at the polls,” Fortunati said. “We then physically pull their ballot, we void it, they sign it, I sign it, and then their name is taken off the voting list as having voted by absentee ballot.”

Alternatively, if voters don’t return their absentee ballot, they’re free to vote at the polls.

However, once they return the ballot to the office and don’t come to withdraw it in person, the office records it in the voter registry that they have voted by absentee ballot.

“So if they show up at the polls on Election Day, they’ll be prohibited from voting in person,” Fortunati said.

Absentee ballots are available up until the day before the election.

“We’re here, and we’re ready and willing to assist in any way,” Fortunati said. “We’ll do what we can to work with the voters.”