WALLINGFORD — The Secretary of the State’s office has instructed Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. to place at least one ballot drop box outside of Town Hall.
Dickinson said last week that he plans to keep the two drop boxes — sent by the Secretary of the State's office for absentee ballot collection in the August primary —inside Town Hall, citing security and vandalism concerns.
Dickinson did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
“Our office has grave concerns about your unwillingness to protect the health and safety of your voters by providing them with a safe and trusted method of contactless delivery of their absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates said via letter Monday.
A May executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont made the desire to avoid a polling place due to COVID-19 a valid reason for requesting an absentee ballot for the Aug.11 primary.
Polling places are slated to remain open, but the Secretary of the State's office sent an absentee ballot application to every eligible voter.
“No Connecticut voter should have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote, particularly when the means to protect health has been provided to their town free of charge,” Bates said in the letter to Dickinson.
The drop boxes were paid for through the federal CARES Act, which appropriated $5.4 million to Connecticut to cover costs incurred from voting by mail due to the pandemic.
Bates’ instructions state that Dickinson and any other relevant town officers must locate the drop box “in an outdoor location accessible to all voters at all times.”
The absentee ballots are slated to be mailed to voters July 21. Voters can fill out and return them by using a prepaid return envelope included with the ballot or delivering it to a drop box.
Meriden, Southington and Cheshire also received two ballot drop boxes and have installed at least one outside.
Bates’s letter cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statement that indoor spaces — where there’s less ventilation and it might be harder to keep people apart — are more risky than outdoor spaces.
Keeping the drop boxes inside Town Hall “would defeat the purpose of the drop box,” Bates said, “which is to give voters the opportunity to deliver their absentee ballot in a contactless method in an environment with the lowest possible risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, and would make voters reliant on town hall staff to give them access to vote.”
Dickinson ordered Town Hall, which had been locked since March 30, to reopen to the public beginning Monday.
The drop box manufacturer, American Security Cabinets, follows stringent standards approved by the state of California.
Along with the drop boxes, towns were sent a copy of the federal Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s guidance on ballot drop box security.