REGION — Town clerks are reporting significant increases in the number of absentee ballots being requested for the July 14, election.

As of Tuesday, more than 10% of Wilton’s registered voters had requested absentee ballots. Wilton has 2,861 registered voters and so far about 370 people are voting by absentee ballot, Town Clerk Diane Dunham said in a phone interview. In 2016, 26 voted absentee.

In Farmington, almost 18%, 1,167 of the 6,520 registered voters, had requested absentee ballots by Tuesday, Town Clerk Leanne Dickey said in a phone interview.

“There were 43 in 2016 and 384 in 2018 for the gubernatorial primary where there was a local candidate,” Dickey said. “I just think more people are doing it this way. We encouraged it.”

Wednesday, Chesterville Deputy Town Clerk Rachel Heseltine said 90 of the town’s 991 registered voters, almost 10%, had requested absentee ballots. 24 voted absentee in 2016.

With the increase in absentee ballot requests, some towns will be counting those ballots differently.

Dunham said that Wilton’s ballot clerk volunteers have all agreed to work this year, and they plan on counting the absentee ballots on July 14, at three different intervals:  10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

“Whatever is in house (for absentee ballots) will be counted Friday, July 10, with some counting Saturday if needed, so we won’t be clogging lines on election day or trying to count hundreds of ballots Tuesday night,” Dickey said.

“We will count during free times on Tuesday,” Heseltine said.

Towns will be following guidelines from the Secretary of State Tuesday, which could make wait times longer for voters.

“Making sure we can comply with the six-foot distancing, the number of people in the building at one time. It’s going to be a little bit of a longer day. Only eight people can vote at one time versus 32 normally. About eight people can be waiting inside. It’s going to be a very challenging day. We’ll do the best we can,” Dickey said.

“We’re trying to come up with two more teams of ballot clerks. Each team needs a Republican and a Democrat. We only have two teams and four ballots. We’d like to have one team for each ballot,” Heseltine said. “We’ll space the booths apart, clean after every voter. There will be a limit to three people voting at once, even though we have five booths.

“It’s going to be a very busy day.”

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