Get ready for another election lawsuit and more election madness courtesy of Democratic Registrar Santa Ayala who blowtorched the entire city-wide slate of Democratic mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster based on a technicality over too many candidates for Board of Education. Ayala was at the center of a storm last November when she failed to print enough paper ballots that made Bridgeport a national laughing stock. Ayala wrote a letter to Town Clerk Alma Maya and the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office as a deadline loomed to print the names of candidates on the September 13 primary ballot:
“Upon careful review of the Democratic petitions for municipal offices at large filed with my office … I have made a determination that I have no choice but to reject the petitions to be candidates submitted by the Mary-Jane Foster slate for the Democratic primary scheduled to occur on September 13, 2011. Please know that this has been a difficult decision to reach.”
Last week Charlie Coviello withdrew his name as a Foster-slate candidate for Board of Education to try to resolve the candidate issue. Ayala addressed this in her letter. “It is also my opinion that the excess number of proposed candidates contained on the petitions is not curable. The withdrawal of a candidate’s name for a seat on the board of education after the circulation of the petition does not cure the problem.”
If that’s the case why didn’t Ayala catch this excess candidate concern when she issued the petition papers to the Foster camp? And what lawyer snagged this legal argument for Ayala? Foster’s slate included candidates for city clerk, town clerk, city sheriff and school board. Are supporters of Mayor Bill Finch dancing in the streets? You bet. Unless a court intervenes Finch will have no primary and a much easier path to reelection.
Additional OIB background: /another-election-mess-foster-phone-call-urges-dem-voters-to-support-ballot-spot/
From the Foster campaign:
Foster Denied Access to Ballot; Foster: We Will Fight–Campaign is Not Over. Registrar of Voters refuses to certify. Campaign will file legal action tomorrow. History repeats itself in Bridgeport
The Democratic Registrar of Voters of Bridgeport today refused to certify Mary-Jane Foster’s name to be on the Democratic primary ballot, along with her entire slate of candidates. On the advice of the City Attorney, the Democratic Registrar has disqualified all of Foster’s signatures on the basis that Foster’s slate includes four candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education when only three candidates are eligible to be on the ballot, according to the City Charter. Connecticut General Statutes state that four candidates may be placed on the ballot, with the three individuals to receive the most votes earning a place on the final ballot. On August 10, 2011 Foster for Bridgeport submitted approximately 3,500 signatures and needed 2,109 to qualify. The campaign will be filing legal action tomorrow to correct this wrong.
“The Democratic Registrar of Voters is wrong and whoever is advising her is wrong and we will prove that in court,” stated Jason Bartlett, campaign manager. “The City Attorney is spreading disinformation about the process for certifying for the primary ballot and Mayor Finch, once again, is behind an effort to prevent the residents of Bridgeport from exercising their right to vote. Mary-Jane’s campaign will continue and we are asking all of our supporters to keep working on her behalf. This fight is not over.”
Michele Mount, attorney for the Board of Education candidates, stated, “The Charter provision that the City is relying on pertains to the General Election in November. Further, CGS 9-410, regarding primary petitions, states that ‘any one primary petition may propose as many candidates for different offices or positions as there are nominations to be made OR positions to be filled.’ There are four positions to be filled. The Statutes also provide a way to determine how minority representation is to be effectuated. I am surprised that the Registrar and her attorneys read these statutes in such a tortured way as to prevent access to the ballot for an entire slate of candidates. The Registrar relies upon the language in that same Statute, section (c), which has been determined by the Connecticut Supreme Court to be ambiguous and not factually similar to Foster’s case. In 2007’s Gonzalez v. Surgeon, the State Supreme Court looked at the legislative intent of that provision and determined it relates to individuals who circulated petitions for two different slates. Ms. Ayala is dead wrong.”
The State’s minority representation requirement dictates that only three of those four candidates would be eligible to be placed on the general election ballot. Foster’s original slate included four candidates but on Friday, August 20, 2011, Charles Coviello withdrew his candidacy for the Bridgeport Board of Education in order to strengthen the ticket, bringing her Board of Education slate to three.
The State Superior Court has yet to determine if the State’s takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education dissolution is constitutional. If it is and there is not going to be a Board of Education election, then none of the names on the ballot would be relevant, regardless of whether there are three or four names.
From John Gomes:
Gomes reacts to ‘attack on democracy’ in Bridgeport Mayoral race
Earlier this evening, former Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes made the following statement in response to the news that even though she turned in more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the September 13 primary to challenge incumbent Mayor Bill Finch, Mary-Jane Foster’s signatures were rejected due to a technicality that had no meaningful effect on the process:
“The news that Mary-Jane Foster has been denied her place on the September 13th ballot is extremely disturbing. It is my understanding that she successfully met all the necessary requirements and collected more than enough valid signatures to be on the ballot. Apparently Mayor Finch and his forces have found a technicality that has nothing to do with the spirit of the law to deny Mary-Jane her rightful place on the ballot.
“In denying Mary-Jane a place on the ballot, Finch is denying the voters of Bridgeport their basic rights as American citizens. These are the very rights that so many died and suffered for.
“The last time I checked Bridgeport, Connecticut was a part of the United States of America and this primary must move forward and voters must be given their choice.
“Mayor Finch is not a dictator and this is not a third-world country. This primary should not get cancelled at the last minute because Bill Finch is worried the people will throw him out of office. This goes beyond machine politics and is by definition an attack on democracy itself. I immigrated to this country when I was just a boy. I could never have imagined something like this happening then and I still can’t today.”