You say ‘Stratford,’ state contractor prints ‘Stafford’

STRATFORD — Every registered voter in the state has received an absentee ballot application in the mail this month — but some in Stratford got theirs from a purportedly unexpected source 80 miles up the road.

The return address on envelopes containing their applications showed the town clerk’s office not from Stratford, but from Stafford Springs, a town bordering Massachusetts near the state’s northeast corner.

The addresses on the applications themselves — and the envelopes to return them — are correct, so the mix-up, which occurred at a state mailing vendor, shouldn’t result in anyone being disenfranchised, authorities said.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office was working with the vendor to figure out how many voters got erroneous envelopes.

Mayor Laura Hoydick referred to the mistake during last week’s Town Council meeting — as well as to finger-pointing between town clerks and the state over the mailing of absentee ballots for last month’s primary.

“We’ve had a little difficulty again with absentee ballots,” Hoydick told the council. “We had it with the primary and we’re experiencing it again with the general election.”

The mayor assured residents the typo won’t affect their votes.

“There’s nothing wrong with the ballot,” she said. “Everything will be fine. You can process your ballot just as you normally would.”

“The Secretary of (the) State made that error,” the mayor said. “Hopefully we’re the only town where the error is.”

Last month, a similar mix-up with addresses affected absentee ballot applications sent to Cromwell and Cornwall, former state legislator Kevin Rennie reported on his blog.

“It seems like we’re just having difficulty with these mail-in ballots all over the place,” Hoydick said. “But they work and once you get your ballot, you can either mail it or put it in the drop box at Town Hall.”

The town clerk in Stafford will send any ballot applications her office does receive to Stratford Town Clerk Susan Pawluk, the mayor said.

The exact number of voters affected was still unclear as of Friday afternoon.

Republican Registrar of Voters Lou DeCilio, who is also chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said his office has been dealing with calls from “hundreds” of the town’s roughly 37,000 registered voters.

But a spokesman for the Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office said the problem appeared on a “relatively small” number of envelopes.

The spokesman, Gabe Rosenberg, said Merrill’s office was working with its mailing contractor to find out exactly how many voters’ envelopes were affected, “but it was not every voter in Stratford.”

“We have had a few questions from Stratford residents but not many,” Rosenberg said. “There’s no chance (the ballots) won’t be sent to the right place.”

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