Jason Bartlett, campaign manager for Democratic mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster, has filed complaints with the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging a voter was disenfranchised because the Town Clerk’s Office didn’t have an absentee ballot available for her to vote on the spot and also alleging State Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, a supporter of Mayor Bill Finch, offered assistance to an elector who had voted by absentee ballot. Santiago is the son of former State Rep. Americo Santiago, also a supporter of Finch. (Ezequiel, feel free to contact OIB if you want to refute the Foster camp’s allegations.) Santiago is quoted in the CT Post:
“I was there that day to check to see whether the residents there received their ballots or not,” he said. “I also stressed to them that they shouldn’t allow anyone from any campaign (to) help them fill out their ballots for them. I never touch their ballots–I know better than that. If I were to do something like that, well, that would just be sheer stupidity.”
Why would Santiago even be there asking about absentee ballots?
Bartlett says he has backed up his complaints with affidavits from the voters. (The Town Clerk’s Office, responding to an avalanche of absentee ballot requests, ran out of ballots for a day in one district.) The complaint:
This complaint is in regard to the handling of absentee ballots by Town Clerk’s office of Bridgeport and officials supporting the reelection of Mayor Bill Finch. After being reinstated to the ballot in the Democratic primary, it is of great concern to Ms. Foster’s campaign that there are no further instances of voter disenfranchisement. It has been brought to the attention of the campaign that a number of possible violations have occurred during the process of absentee voting, a particularly vulnerable procedure. We believe the incumbency and members of its supporting cast to be using its power to gain an illegal advantage.
1. On the morning of September 12th, 2011, Mrs. Carmen Diaz went to the Town Clerk’s office in Bridgeport with the intention of voting via absentee ballot, as she knew she would be out of the country on the date of the primary (Sept 27th). Upon arriving at the Town Clerk’s office she filled out an application for a ballot and immediately turned it back in, letting the Town Clerk’s assistant know that she wished to vote in person at that time. The Town Clerk’s assistant checked her voting district and informed her that she had no ballots for that district (137) at that time. She went on to explain that all the ballots they had received had been sent out to those that had already requested them. Mrs. Diaz was instructed to call back later that afternoon or the next day to see if the new shipment had come in, so that she could come back to vote.
2. On September 15th, 2011 Mrs. Elizabeth Hendricks was at home in her apartment on 140 Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport. A man knocked on her door and introduced himself as State Representative Ezequiel Santiago. He went on to say that he had done a lot of work for seniors as a Representative in Hartford. He then asked Mrs. Hendricks if she was going to be voting via absentee ballot. She told him she was, but had already returned her ballot. He responded by saying he would have taken the ballot for her to be turned in.
1. Under allegation 1 the Town Clerk’s office failed to act pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Sec. 9-140 subsection (g) which reads in part, “When the clerk receives an application during the time period in which absentee voting sets are to be issued he shall mail an absentee voting set to the applicant, within twenty-four hours, unless the applicant submits his application in person at the office of the clerk and asks to be given his absentee voting set immediately, in which case the clerk shall comply with the request.”
2. By failing to supply a ballot to a voter with a lawful reason to vote via absentee ballot within the proper time period of absentee balloting pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 9-140, the Town Clerk’s office disenfranchised Mrs. Diaz.
3. With regard to allegation 2, Representative Santiago was demonstrating disregard for Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 9-140b subsections (d) and (e), which read:
(d) No person shall have in his possession any official absentee ballot or ballot envelope for use at any primary, election or referendum except the applicant to whom it was issued, the Secretary of the State or his or her authorized agents, any official printer of absentee ballot forms and his designated carriers, the United States Postal Service, any other carrier, courier or messenger service recognized and approved by the Secretary of the State, any person authorized by a municipal clerk to receive and process official absentee ballot forms on behalf of the municipal clerk, any authorized primary, election or referendum official or any other person authorized by any provision of the general statutes to possess a ballot or ballot envelope.
(e) No (1) candidate or (2) agent of a candidate, political party or committee, as defined in section 9-601, shall knowingly be present when an absentee ballot applicant executes an absentee ballot, except (A) when the candidate or agent is (i) a member of the immediate family of the applicant or (ii) authorized by law to be present or (B) when the absentee ballot is executed in the office of the municipal clerk and the municipal clerk or an employee of the municipal clerk is a candidate or agent.
Such a failure on the part of the Town Clerk’s office and disregard of State law by Representative Santiago certainly warrant further scrutiny from the Election Enforcement Commission. In the brief period that absentee ballots have been available, already these two cases have been brought to the attention of the campaign. I believe this shows a pattern of neglect with regard to rule of law by the powers that be in Bridgeport.
Attached are the affidavits of the witnesses to aforementioned violations for your review. I respectfully submit this complaint to the State Election Enforcement Commission for further investigation and action.