Ask The Registrar

By Registrar of Voters James Simon (D)
Your place for answers about voting and local elections in Stratford. More questions? Please send them to jsimon @ Town of Stratford | 2725 Main St., Stratford CT 06615, 203 385 4049. This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford. 

You have the option to go to the Baldwin Center (1000 West Broad St.) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, March 26, 2024
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2024
  • Thursday, March 28, 2024
  • Saturday, March 30, 2024

Other options are to vote via Absentee Ballot if you met criteria such as being sick or away on business (
Information/Absentee-Voting) or to vote at your usual polling location on April 2.

To vote in a Democratic or Republican primary, you must be registered with the party. If you are
Unaffiliated, you can join the party beforehand to cast a ballot.

While we are still working out final details, most people will park in the Baldwin Center lot, behind the Library, and directly enter the room called The Studio which is accessible from the parking lot. You will present an ID, and your name will be recorded as having voted.

An election worker will generate a sticker with your name and address, place it on the outside of an envelope, and give it to you with a ballot for your particular party. You will go to a privacy booth, fill out your ballot as usual, put it inside the envelope, and place the envelope into a white Ballot Drop mailbox.

The envelopes will be counted each night by election workers from different parties, secured to avoid tampering, and brought to a Town Hall vault for safekeeping. The same process will be followed for each of the four days. The ballots will not be opened until Election Day when they will be put through a normal vote tabulator.

You cannot change your ballot, and since you will have been recorded as having voted, you will not be able to try to vote on Election Day.

Long lines. Most other states have some form of Early Voting. Based on their experience, we project perhaps 30 percent of eligible Stratford voters may take advantage of it. We are working to reduce the chance of long lines.

If you are interested in Early Voting, we encourage you to go on the Wednesday or Thursday to avoid lines; other states have found there is a surge of voters at the start (Tuesday) and the end (Saturday) of the process.

No, based on the experience in other states. Early Voting will be convenient for some people and will give you another way to cast a ballot. But it often just shifts voters away from Election Day balloting, Absentee Voting, and the other ways of casting a ballot, based on the experience elsewhere.

The lack of competitive contests in 2024 for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations also may dampen turnout in the April 2 presidential primary. Our best guess is 25% of Stratford’s 19,144 registered Democrats and Republicans – or 4,786 voters – will cast a ballot. If 30 percent of them come through the Baldwin Center’s early voting, that means up to 1,500 voters will be standing in line to use Early Voting over the four days.

We already have video surveillance of our white Ballot Drop Boxes from a camera at the Fire Station, across Main Street, and from a second camera at Town Hall.

We plan to publicize that fact more often, to deter anyone who might try to violate the law by improperly depositing multiple ballots, as happened in Bridgeport in 2023.

Since you are enrolled in another political party, you would have to switch within 90 days of the April 2 primary, or by Jan. 2, 2024. You can switch parties here:

If you are an Unaffiliated voter, you can switch to one of the parties and vote in that party’s primary up until noontime on the day before the primary. In this case, the deadline would be at noon on April 1, 2024. You can switch back to Unaffiliated status after the primary if you so desire.

A reminder that under a new state law, we will have four days of Early Voting going into Primary Election Day on April 2. You will be able to go to the Baldwin Community Center, adjacent to the library, and vote in person on Wednesday, March 27; Thursday, March 28; Saturday, March 30; and Sunday, March 31. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. (No early voting on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, or the day before the election.)

One reason is cost. It will cost a projected $10,000 to conduct the April 2 primary election plus Early Voting, even if we limit the balloting to a single voting location. It would cost far more if we used all 10 traditional locations. School will be in session for some days, and voting at schools also would prevent them from conducting normal activities in the gymnasiums that we use for polling.

We looked for a single centralized location that had adequate parking. Stratford Town Hall does not have enough parking. The Stratford Library’s Lovell Room was a candidate, but it is a long walk from the parking lot behind the library to the Lovell Room. The Stratford Baldwin Center has access to the large parking lot, and voters can immediately enter the polling area – called the Studio Room or the Cares Room – and easily return to their cars.

We don’t know. We are proud of the fact that you usually spend no more than 10 minutes at a Stratford polling location, from the time you walk into the room to the time you finish and get your “I Voted” sticker. Early Voting is supposed to make voting more convenient, but we fear that voters will be curious, show up in large numbers on the first days, and actually create longer lines than usual. We are looking at ways to create multiple lines to ease the expected crush.

As one of the many built-in safeguards for voting in Connecticut, the voting results in 5 percent of all Connecticut election districts are audited every year. Stratford’s District 1 was chosen at random, and then we chose, at random, to look at the Board of Education and Zoning races during a public recount at Town Hall on Nov. 28. The recount totals matched the Election Day totals, with no variation.

With 169 cities and towns in Connecticut, it should be unusual for Stratford to be chosen. But because we have 10 voting districts, compared to one or two in some smaller towns, it seems like we are chosen every year.

We hire 110+ people for paid positions at the 10 polling stations, and we think we have enough coverage for the Nov. 7 municipal election. But if interested, please do send your contact information to registrars @ . We are already thinking about the April 2, 2024, presidential primary in Connecticut where, due to the start of Early Voting, we will need considerably more paid workers than in the past.

A reminder that in the Nov. 7, 2023 election, you will be choosing among candidates for Town Council, Board of Education, the land use boards (Planning Commission, Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals), and Constable. The mayor’s office is NOT on the ballot until 2025.

You can. The Town Clerk manages ABs, and she maintains a Permanent Absentee Ballot list. See a description of the process here.

If you qualify, contact the Town Clerk: spawluk @; (203) 385-4020.

State law mandates that a voter be switched from Active to Inactive status if they fail to vote for four consecutive years and do not respond when we send them a letter. Inactive voters can vote if they go to their polling place and fill out a New Voter Registration application. If an Inactive voter changes their party, address, name, or modifies their registration in any other way, it reinstates their Active status.

If four additional years pass without the voter casting a vote, the voter is changed to Off status.

Go to 2023 Sample Ballots – Town of Stratford, CT ( and examine the ballot for your district; they are different in each of the 10 districts. For a list of districts and school voting locations, go here.

The sample ballots also are available for public viewing outside our office, Room 117, Town Hall, 2725 Main St.

Look yourself up: Voter Registration Lookup ( Most Stratford residents stayed in the same district, but 1,754 of the 35,000 voters were moved to another district this year.

State law mandates we have to hold completed ballots for a specified period of time, often 22 months. Then we can apply for permission to dispose of completed ballots; the Town Clerk, Mayor, and State Library all have to sign off before we are allowed to dispose of them.

Actually, we are switching back to dark ink marking pens this November. It was mandated by the company that prints the ballots.

We often get one or two such complaints a week in the Registrar’s office from people saying their political party had been changed without their approval. We always ask: Have you been to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles recently?

Nationwide, more people register to vote at a DMV than through any other method. But in Connecticut during a DMV visit, if you make a change (such as updating your voting address) and if you leave the party line blank, you will be changed from your preferred party to “unaffiliated.”

Registrars met online recently with a top DMV official to try to reverse the policy: we argued your party should stay the same unless you consciously seek to change it. We were told DMV is “working on it.”

Again, if you are registered to vote and none of your information has changed, you do NOT have to re-register at DMH or elsewhere. To check your current information for accuracy, go here.

A primary election will be held Sept. 12, but only for Stratford Democrats … and only in District 3 (voting at Johnson House) … and only for a single position: which Democrat should run for Town Council. The party endorsed Alvin O’Neal; challenger Michael Singh collected enough voter signatures to force the primary.

As always, polling hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dozens of voters have applied for an absentee ballot, which must be received at Town Hall by the 8 p.m. deadline. The winner will advance to the Nov. 7 general election. There are nine Democrats for every Republican in the South End, so the winner of the primary will be a heavy favorite in November.

Connecticut has a closed primary system, which means only registered party members may participate in their party’s primary. Democrats may not vote in Republican primaries, and Republicans may not vote in Democratic primaries.

If unaffiliated voters in Stratford switched to the Democrats before the Monday noontime deadline, they would be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. Several did so.

It depends on the type of election. A town-wide election like the 2024 presidential election may cost $30,000 in the direct cost of hiring 100+ poll workers and printing tens of thousands of ballots.

A primary election like the one in District 3 will cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

Early Voting will not start in Connecticut until the April 2024 presidential primary. The Sept. 12, 2023 primary will be held only in the 3rd District, and only among Democrats. You can cast a ballot early via Absentee Ballot (see links below) or at the polls on Sept. 12.

There is only one position on the D3 ballot: Town Council. Alvin O’Neal, who was endorsed by the Stratford Democratic Town Committee, is being challenged by Michael Singh.

Contact the Town Clerk or go to:

To check on your party registration:

To see the District 3 primary election ballot:

We recently projected the cost of both the April 2024 presidential primary and the November 2024 state-level general election. Four days of early voting are mandated by the state for the primary; the cost of printing specialized ballots, setting up a single polling location (instead of the usual 10), paying for poll workers, and related expenses will be $12,153. For the mandated 14 days of EV in the November 2024 general election, the additional cost will be $34,413. This is a conservative estimate that calls for staffing only two lines of voters, in a single location that will serve the entire town.

So the state is only paying for about 25% of the additional cost of Early Voting in Stratford.

We reduce the chance of that happening by holding all absentee ballots until the day of the election, then voiding the AB of anyone who also tries to vote at the polls on Election Day.

But what if you are registered to vote under two different names? In 2021, the town clerk’s office noticed that absentee ballots had been requested by two women with the same first name, same address, and same date of birth, but different last names. The woman apparently submitted one AB request under her maiden name, then submitted another application with her married name – both on the same day. We reported the apparent double vote to the State Election Enforcement Commission, and SEEC this month referred the matter to the State Attorney’s office for possible prosecution.

We went through all 35,000 voter registration cards by hand and found dozens of additional cases of a woman being registered under both her maiden and married names. We combined the records for each person under the most up-to-date registration.

Yes. But it has more unaffiliated voters than voters registered with any one party.

As of Aug. 23, 2023, there were 12,840 active, registered Democrats, 6,217 Republicans, 14,856 unaffiliated voters, and 423 voters registered with other parties. Many of the unaffiliated voters often cast ballots for Republican candidates in local elections, but then vote more Democratic in state-level and national elections.

This week our office is sending out postcards to inform 1,600+ registered voters that their polling location has been changed due to Redistricting. Do you want to know right now? You can look up your own, up-to-date information at

By Tuesday, July 25, the two major parties will have endorsed their municipal candidates. Party members can challenge any choice by circulating petitions and gathering enough certified signatures by Aug. 9 to force a primary election on Sept. 12. As of July 24, there were potential primary challenges only in Districts 3 (voting at Johnson House) and 4 (Franklin School).

The general election is Nov. 7, 2023; voters will choose a town council candidate in their district, plus vote for candidates for Planning, Zoning, Board of Education, and Constable.


As an unaffiliated voter, you have until noon on the day before the primary to make a switch. But if you belong to any specific political party, you must act 90 days ahead of time, so you have already missed the deadline for September.

Thomas told the state’s Registrars of Voters on July 18 that election disrupters could (mis)use AI to create false candidate images, voices, and political appeals. While voters often can tell if someone is sending a phony e-mails because of misspellings, odd phrases, or strange domain names, AI will correct many of those problems – “there will be fewer ‘tells’ ’’ — and make detection harder in the future, she said.

Thomas remains worried that the Legislature did not make good on its promise to fully fund Early Voting; the lawmakers approved the same $10,500 funding for EV for each individual municipality, whether you are a big city like Bridgeport or a tiny town with under 5,000 people. Like many other towns, Stratford may have to use town funds to pay for part of the election.

Thomas also worries about the lack of action to fund replacements for the state’s aging voting machines. She is lobbying the state Bonding Commission to endorse funding for a new generation of machines. The current machines, which have served Connecticut well for 15+ years, are no longer manufactured and often are repaired by raiding discarded machines for parts.

Each political party’s Town Committee, made up of dozens of local party leaders, will meet in mid-July and endorse 2023 candidates for Town Council, Board of Education, constable, and land use boards.

If a potential candidate does >not< get endorsed, he or she can collect signatures and force a primary election on Sept. 12. If it is a candidate for Town Council, only the voters in that Council district would vote. If it is a candidate for Board of Education, the entire town would be eligible to vote.

The machines were designed about 20 years ago; they have been in use for about 18 years, and they are no longer manufactured. Stratford does have backups, and we pay an outside vendor to come every year and service them.

Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas asked the Legislature for $25 million to replace all the 3,000 existing machines with new models that can handle Early Voting (and possibly rank ordered voting, if Connecticut moves in that direction). The Legislature ended its 2023 session on June 7 without acting.

You would think that if the chairs of Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican parties could agree on something, they could get it approved. Not in this case. Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo and GOP Chair Ben Proto (from Stratford) both asked the Legislature this year to move Connecticut’s 2024 presidential primary from April 30 to April 2. They argued that winning candidates were pretty much decided by the end of April, and they hoped Connecticut could play more of a role if its primary were held earlier in the month.

The Legislature concluded its formal work for the year without approving their proposal.

The Legislature did provide funding for the four days of Early Voting, which will start in April 2024. But they made it a flat $10,500 per municipality, regardless of whether it was Bridgeport (pop. 148,654) or Union (pop. 785).

The money >will not< cover all of Stratford’s Early Voting costs for the April presidential primary, and an even bigger deficit will be incurred to pay for early voting in elections later in 2024.

Connecticut loosened its rules on using Absentee Ballots in recent years due to the COVID emergency. In 2020, 10,000 out of 35,000 voters in Stratford used ABs. But the emergency conditions have ended, and ABs now can be used if a person will be out of town, if they are ill, in the military, working at the polls, or other reasons specified by law. See:

The Legislature is expected to vote in 2024 on a state constitutional amendment that would give everyone the option to vote via Absentee Ballot. Voters would then have to approve the proposal in November 2024 before it would take effect.

The Legislature has approved an Early Voting law, which implements the ballot question approved by voters in 2023. The final language calls for 14 days of early voting, and less for primary elections, but delays the start of the program until 2024. So the expected presidential primary election in Connecticut in April 2024 is expected to be the first time the new program will be implemented.

The new law calls for the state to fully fund the program, but town officials continue to worry that not enough money was included in the bill to make good on the promise.

There are no town elections in May. The next election in Stratford is likely to be party primary elections in September, if there are contested seats for Town Council, Board of Education, and other municipal offices on the ballot in November.

But our office lends its expertise to private organizations within Stratford that hold elections. For example, on Tuesday May 23, we set up the election for Oronoque Village, which has its own tax district and needs to hold elections to pick officers to oversee the district. OV pays for the printing of ballots, the needed computer programming, and other related expenses, and we bring our professional voting tabulators to the North Trail office of OV and conduct a three- hour election. And yes, voters get an “I Voted” sticker.

Every year, the Registrars try to interact with all high school students in three ways. First, we conduct interactive workshops, in each separate Civics class, on the importance and value of voting and elections. Connecticut mandates that every student takes a civics class, and we held about 16 separate workshops this year.

In late May, we help conduct the Senior Class elections. Again we bring in our voting tabulators, train students in the various Poll Worker roles, then let the juniors elect their student leaders for senior year. Stratford Rotary pays for the needed expenses. And yes, the student voters get an “I Voted” sticker.

Finally, we have separate meetings at SHS and BHS with all graduating seniors on the day when they get their caps and gowns. We again remind them of the importance of voting, show them how easy it is to fill out the registration form, then distribute the forms and ask that they immediately fill them out. We gain at least 300 new registered voters.

Student handwriting! We think that with cell phones, cursive writing and even printing is becoming a lost art : )

Our Moderators at each polling location tell us that on average, each voter spends less than 10 minutes at the polls. The shortest lines are often at 7:30 p.m.

To avoid any line, you also can use Absentee Voting if you qualify through a sickness or other approved reason. Some 10,000 Stratford voters (!) in the 2020 presidential election did so.

And again, starting in 2024, Connecticut becomes the 47 th state to offer Early Voting. The experience in other states shows a substantial turnout on the first day, then almost no voting in subsequent days, then a final slow buildup as the deadline for Early Voting approaches.

Voters in Stratford and throughout Connecticut will be able to vote early in the November 2023 election and in all elections thereafter. Legislators are still deciding whether there should be 10, 14 or 18 days where you can both register and/or vote early. There will not be Early Voting in any primary election in September 2023.

If the state’s decision is to mandate 10 days of polling, you might imagine being able to go to one central location (maybe the Stratford Baldwin Center) and cast a ballot any day between Friday Oct. 27 and Sunday Nov. 5. Note that includes two weekends, which is important to legislators.

The state is expected to mandate polling hours from 10a to 6p, except for two expanded days when the hours would be 8a to 8p.

No, the approach is more likely to be like Absentee Balloting, where you fill out a ballot with a bar code, stick it in a second envelope for privacy, and then place it in a receptacle where it will be held and opened on Election Day.

What if you submit a ballot in Early Voting, then die before Election Day? Under state law, the ballot is not officially “cast” until Election Day, and we would use the bar code to find your ballot and nullify it.

The primary responsibility of the ROV office is to administer all public elections in town. A paramount concern is to keep the voting rolls up to date and prevent anyone from voting who is not eligible.

Our office does encourage both voter registration and casting a ballot on Election Day. A big focus of our registration effort is centered on the high schools. We try to interact with every student three times: by conducting a workshop in every SHS and BHS Civics class in Junior year, then conducting Senior Class Elections using our professional voting machines, and then meeting again with all seniors as they prepare to graduate and getting hundreds of them to register to vote (if they are of age).

In addition, we hired 22 of the most promising students last year for paid poll worker positions.

We recently surveyed the 20 largest municipalities in Connecticut. (Stratford is 17 the largest). We found 66.49 percent of our eligible residents are registered to vote – the second highest percentage in the study (and higher than towns like Greenwich, Westport, and West Hartford, which have higher socio-economic status that is associated with increased voting activity).

If you take our 35,000 registered voters and add in residents who are too young to vote and convicted felons who are not able to vote, the total of town residents who are registered hits the 80%+ mark. We can always do better, but if Stratford has a problem, it may be more election turnout than election registration.

We are always eager to talk about voting to civics groups and set up a Voter Registration table at town events. The Registrars conducted an interactive discussion recently on Early Voting at the Stratford Library and attracted 25+ people. Contact us at [email protected]

YES! Please do contact us at Registrars @ We expect that most of our regular 110 paid poll workers have full-time jobs and will >not< be able to fill the new Early Voting shifts. So we will be looking for additional people to train, employ, and pay.

You can register to vote, or check the status of your registration, here: You can also call us at 203-385-4048 and have us check it for you, or stop by our office at Room 117 in Town Hall.

We track the number of votes per hour, and in general, the most votes are cast between 7-9 a.m., 12-2 p.m., and 4:30-7 p.m. You might expect long lines in the hour leading up to the 8 p.m. deadline, but that has not been the case in recent Stratford elections.

All Connecticut voters are being asked to vote on the question: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting.”

Here is a concise explanation: Each polling location will have an expanded explanation available, on a table when you walk in. It is easy to find additional information online by searching for the CT ballot question.

Some 44 states – red and blue alike – now allow early, no-excuse voting, whether by expanded mail-in ballots, going to a centralized polling place and casting a ballot before the official Election Day, or some other method. The Legislature would decide the best approach for Connecticut only if voters approve the ballot question.

Contact Town Clerk Susan Pawluk and discuss options: [email protected]; 203-385-4020. The problem is that you need enough time to complete a two-step process; first, apply for an AB and have it mailed to you, then fill it out and get it in before Tuesday 8 p.m. The white Ballot Drop Box, located alongside Town Hall and across from the Fire Station, does help expedite the process.

None of the 10 polling locations has been changed since the last redistricting by the town 9+ years ago. You can double-check your voting location here: