Next Friday the 13th, legal parties with input from elections officials will appear before Judge Salvatore Agati in Waterbury Superior Court to figure out how to shoehorn a special election for four Board of Education seats between calendar-set party primaries and a general election in November.
The Connecticut Supreme Court in reversing state control of city schools ordered Agati, the presiding court judge, to schedule the election. Easier said than done. Lawyers for the city and elections officials cautioned the judge that he must schedule the election without encroaching already scheduled elections in April, August and November. A GOP presidential primary will take place April 24, primaries for state and federal offices Aug. 14 and a general election for president Nov. 6. The Supremes ruled the election for school board must take place within a 150-day window from the date set by Agati.
State law requires all election machines (tabulators) must be locked down in the 14 days after the respective elections to make room for recounts or legal challenges. This makes setting a special election date challenging. Lawyers say Judge Agati is examining a complete election window including party primaries. If that’s the case room must be made for party endorsements, petition challengers, primary schedule and then the general election. So perhaps we could see a primary date for school board seats set in July and general election in September.
Can Bridgeport borrow voting machines from area municipalities? Theoretically yes, but some area municipalities are facing potential budget votes bumping up against the presidential primary schedule. Many towns, according to local elections officials, are citing a state provision this year to resolve scheduling conflicts between budget referenda and the Republican presidential primary. Registrars can use paper ballots with no tabulators when elections are stacked. State statute language:
Sec. 9-272. Conditions under which use of voting tabulators may be discontinued. If, owing to the number of candidates to be voted upon or owing to inability to obtain a sufficient number of voting tabulators, it is found impracticable to use voting tabulators at any election to be held in any municipality, or in one or more of the voting districts therein, the registrars of voters may discontinue the use of such tabulators for such election in any of the voting districts therein, and shall thereupon cause ballots to be procured and used at such election, as provided by this part, in each of the voting districts wherein the use of voting tabulators has been so discontinued.
Dazed and confused? Local elections officials certainly feel that way with a busy election schedule and department budgets on the verge of breaking. Lawyers for the various parties involved in the school board case may call election officials to the stand to help Judge Agati figure out an election calendar to avoid chaos.
Not that Bridgeport is a stranger to election chaos, eh?
And would it surprise if city lawyers representing governmental interests in support of keeping state-appointed school board members in place as long as possible urge the judge to delay the election all in the name of efficient Democracy? Now that would be some irony.