In a letter to James Mullen, head moderator of last week’s Democratic Town Committee primaries, several candidates are challenging the timing of today’s ongoing recount, with an assist from retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who’s serving as an observer. Maria Pereira of the 138th District, Mary Bruce in the 131st and Donna Curran in the 130th are among the candidates who issued a letter with Lopez. See letter below:
The undersigned hereby challenge the Recanvass scheduled for today, March 12, 2018.
The Primary Election for the Democratic Town Committee in Bridgeport was held on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sections 9-440 and 9-314 (b), as Head Moderator of this Primary, you transmitted the results of the votes for each of the offices contested in the Primary to the Office of the Secretary of State. The results were transmitted on Secretary of State Election Division Form ED-606a, consisting of six (6) pages. The form is on file in the Office of the Bridgeport Town Clerk.
On Friday, March 9, 2018, three calendar days later, several candidates on the various slates were provided with a document entitled a “Notice of Recanvass of Close Vote (9-311a)”. This document states that “Notice is hereby given to you pursuant to Section 9-311 a/9-311b of the Connecticut General Statutes, that on Monday, the 12th day of March, 2018 at 10:00AM, a recanvass of the returns of the voting machines, absentee ballots and write-in ballots used in the 130th, 131st, 138th voting districts in the Election for the office of Democratic Town Committee in the City of Bridgeport at the Margaret Morton Government Center, 999 Broad Street.”
Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-445, entitled Recanvass on Close Vote states in relevant part that “after a primary for nomination to a municipal office or election of members of the town committee … when the plurality of an elected or nominated candidate over the vote for a defeated candidate receiving the next highest number of votes was … (2) less than twenty votes, there shall be a recanvass of the returns of the voting tabulators used in such primary for such office or position …”
This provision of the statute is commonly referred to as an automatic recanvass of the votes cast in the primary. This statute also sets forth the requirements regarding notice to candidates subject to the automatic recount.
The reasons for this challenge are as follows:
1. Notice to two (2) individuals in District 131 was given by a telephone message, not “in writing” as required by Section 9-445 of the General Statutes.
2. A recanvass of all votes cast for the Democratic Town Committee in Districts 130, 131 and 138 is mandated by Section 9-445 of the General Statutes. Therefore, all candidates are subject to the recanvass, not only those who qualify for the automatic recount. In light of this fact, all candidates in those districts must be notified in writing.
3. The election was held on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 and, pursuant to 9-311 of the General Statutes a recanvass must be held no later than the 5th business day following the election. Since Wednesday, March 7, was a snow emergency date, and City Hall was closed, it does not qualify as a “business day.” Therefore, even if the one-half day City Hall was opened on March 8, 2018 is counted, five business days would expire on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Therefore, there is time to reschedule a recanvass for March 14, 2018, with proper notice to all affected candidates.
4. By scheduling the recanvass for Monday, March 12, you have effectively prevented affected individuals from exercising their right to inspect the moderator’s returns and checklists, as provided for on page 7 of the Recanvass Procedural Manual of the Secretary of State. This right of inspection is meaningless, when notification is given late on a Friday afternoon and no business day intervenes before the recanvass.
5. No notification was provided concerning the right to observe the recanvass as specified on page 12 of the Manual. That provision states that “Each candidate (or slate of candidates in a town committee primary) subject to the recanvass is permitted to have two representatives present.
We all know that the City of Bridgeport has been unable to properly conduct a primary election for the City Council seats in the 133rd district, on two separate occasions. As Bridgeport residents we should all be embarrassed by the spectacle. We have witnessed a Chief of Police who felt free to order an on-duty police officer to serve as an errand boy for the Democratic Town Chairman in the collection of absentee ballots. It should not have taken the Connecticut Supreme Court to tell us that this disgraceful conduct is wrong.
It is with this backdrop in mind, that we must guarantee that this recanvass is conducted in accordance with the rule of law.