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Supremes: Don’t Mess With Absentee Ballots

March 27th, 2018 · 22 Comments · City Politics, News and Events

Stop … in the name of absentee ballots, especially if you’re a third party in the collection of ballots. That’s one of the messages from the Connecticut Supreme Court in its written ruling, issued on Monday, upholding Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’s order for another Democratic primary in the City Council’s 133rd District. For background see related article here. Bellis ruled that Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa prevailing upon Police Chief AJ Perez to assign a police officer to pick up absentee ballots on behalf of candidate Michael DeFilippo was an abuse of the election process. The Supremes agreed. See decision here.

From the decision:

The defendants argue that the trial court incorrectly concluded that § 9-140b precluded Testa and DeFilippo from dispatching Nicola to retrieve absentee ballots from voters. They claim that nothing in the statute bars a third party, including a party official or a candidate, from asking a police officer to contact an absentee voter and to act as that voter’s designee for purposes of returning the voter’s absentee ballot. In the defendants’ view, the plain language of § 9-140b authorizes anyone to request a ballot pickup on an absentee voter’s behalf because there is no explicit restriction in that regard.15 The plaintiff, for his part, claims that the trial court correctly interpreted § 9-140b as requiring an absentee voter, himself or herself, to request that a police officer act as a designee for purposes of returning that voter’s absentee ballot and as prohibiting partisan individuals from doing so on a voter’s behalf. We agree with the plaintiff.

The return of absentee ballots, by various authorized methods, is governed by § 9-140b,16 which provides in relevant part that “(a) [a]n absentee ballot shall be cast at a primary, election or referendum only if … (3) it is returned by a designee of an ill or physically disabled ballot applicant, in person, to [the town] clerk not later than the close of the polls on the day of the election, primary or referendum … .” The term “designee” is statutorily defined as “(1) a person who is caring for the applicant because of the applicant’s illness or physical disability, including but not limited to … a licensed physician or a registered or practical nurse, (2) a member of the applicant’s family, who is designated by an absentee ballot applicant and who consents to such designation, or (3) if no such person consents or is available, then a police officer, registrar of voters, deputy registrar of voters or assistant registrar of voters in the municipality in which the applicant resides.” General Statutes § 9-140b (b).

This court previously has held that the requirements of § 9-140b are mandatory. See Wrinn v. Dunleavy, supra, 186 Conn. 145–46 (interpreting predecessor statute). Accordingly, the return of ballots in a manner not substantially in compliance with § 9-140b will result in their invalidation, regardless of whether there is any proof of fraud. Id., 148–49.”Whether fraud has been committed in the handling of certain absentee ballots is irrelevant to the question of whether there has been substantial compliance with all of the mandatory provisions of the absentee voting law. … Had the legislature chosen to do so, it could have enacted a remedial scheme under which ballots would … be invalidated [only] upon a showing of fraud or other related irregularity. The legislature has instead enacted a regulatory scheme designed to prevent fraud as far as practicable by mandating the way in which absentee ballots are to be handled. The validity of the ballot, therefore, depends not on whether there has been fraud, but on whether there has been substantial compliance with the mandatory requirements.” Id., 149; see also Dombkowski v. Messier, 164 Conn. 204, 209, 319 A.2d 373 (1972) (failure of town clerk to follow mandatory statutory requirements with respect to submission of absentee ballots warranted voiding of those ballots without finding of fraud or wilful misconduct).

To determine whether § 9-140b permits third parties, in particular, partisan individuals, to direct police officers to act as designees for absentee voters, we begin with the text of that statute and related provisions. Section 9-140b, read as a whole, reflects a clear legislative intent to maintain distance between partisan individuals and the casting and submission of absentee ballots, undoubtedly in recognition of the potential for undue influence, intimidation or fraud in the use of those ballots.17 That statute expressly provides that, except in certain narrowly defined circumstances, “[n]o (1) candidate or (2) agent of a candidate, political party or committee … shall knowingly be present when an absentee ballot applicant executes an absentee ballot … .” General Statutes § 9-140b (e); see also Gonzalez v. State Elections Enforcement Commission, 145 Conn. App. 458, 471–74, 476, 77 A.3d 790 (candidate violated § 9-140b [e] by accompanying voters while they completed absentee ballots at town clerk’s office), cert. denied, 310 Conn. 954, 81 A.3d 1181 (2013). Subsection (d), delineating which persons are authorized to possess absentee ballots, does not include any partisan individuals, and subsection (b) does not include such persons among the list of persons who may act as absentee voters’ designees for the purpose of returning ballots. See General Statutes § 9-140b (b) and (d).

With respect to who may choose a “designee” for an absentee voter, the language used in § 9-140b manifests an intent on the part of the legislature that a “designee” be a person whom the absentee voter, himself or herself, selects to return his or her ballot. Specifically, that statutory provision indicates that “a designee of an ill or physically disabled ballot applicant” may return the ballot in person; (emphasis added) General Statutes § 9-140b (a) (3); and otherwise that “a designee of a person who applies for an absentee ballot because of illness or physical disability” may return the ballot by mail. (Emphasis added.) General Statutes § 9-140b (a) (1) (B). The verb “designate” is defined as “[t]o indicate, select, appoint, nominate, or set apart for a purpose or duty … .” Black’s Law Dictionary (6th Ed. 1990) p. 447. By combining the term “designee” with the phrase “of an ill or physically disabled ballot applicant,” or “of [an ill or physically disabled] person,” § 9-140b (a) strongly suggests that it is the ballot applicant, and not some third party, who is to select, appoint or nominate an individual, from within the defined universe of qualified persons, to deliver his or her ballot to the town clerk.

… To summarize, the trial court properly found that the fourteen absentee ballots returned by Nicola at the behest of Testa and DeFilippo did not comply with § 9-140b (a) (3) and that the twelve absentee ballots that arrived at city hall without postmarks on November 14, 2017, were not “mailed,” as contemplated by § 9-140b(c). Accordingly, the trial court correctly concluded that all of those ballots were invalid and that they should not have been included in the vote count for the November 14, 2017 special primary. The trial court’s separate conclusion that the supervised absentee balloting at Northbridge did not comply with the statutes governing that process is not supported by the evidence. Because the number of absentee ballots properly invalidated by the trial court is greater than Herron’s eighteen vote margin of victory over the plaintiff, however, the court correctly determined that the results of the November 14, 2017 special primary had been placed seriously in doubt, thereby necessitating that a new special primary be conducted.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    “…To summarize, the trial court properly found that the fourteen absentee ballots returned by Nicola at the behest of Testa and DeFilippo did not comply with § 9-140b (a) (3) and that the twelve absentee ballots that arrived at city hall without postmarks on November 14, 2017, were not ‘‘mailed,’’ as contemplated by § 9-140b(c). Accordingly, the trial court correctly concluded that all of those ballots were invalid and that they should not have been included in the vote count for the November 14, 2017 special primary. The trial court’s separate conclusion that the supervised absentee balloting at Northbridge did not comply with the statutes governing that process is not supported by the evidence. Because the number of absentee ballots properly invalidated by the trial court is greater than Herron’s eighteen vote margin of victory over the plaintiff, however, the court correctly determined that the results of the November 14, 2017 special primary had been placed seriously in doubt, thereby necessitating that a new special primary be conducted.”

    That about sums it up.

     

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    An excellent opportunity for all the “young bloods” and their various newly formed groups to go out and bang the drum for the candidates in the 133rd who are not “tainted” with corruption, corrupt doings, corrupt cohorts and the like. The new people can make a statement in this manner, otherwise….same old same old! The voters need to come out and make a statement but they need to be informed of the circumstances first.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      It’s a safe bet they will be doing just that.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Mr. Augustynowicz, Just out o curiousity. What exactly is the Statement that the “new Voters ” want to make as opposed to the “old voters”. Vote for Keeley because he doesn’t support the Liquor Store? It is so obvous to anyone reading your post that your desire to see Mike and Jeanette fail is because of a purely selfish and self centered reason. That speaks for itself. Mike Defelippo is a very nice guy. He was as the top vote getter. Jeanette Herron has proved to be a fighter for her constituents. It is the “new ” voters that are supprting them. The “old Voters ” have had enough of that other candidate. Bob Walsh and jim Fox may love the slogan of No Dealy Keeley. But that is a tired slogan from a tired candidate. His huge loss to McCarthy and Herron speak for itself. Huge loss. Tomorrow this ews will be old and the campaigning will begin. If No dealy Keeley wins it will just mean that Mike and Jeanette became comatose and just gave up . I hardly think that will happen but hey time will tell. I am glad that these 2 candidates have not stooped to Keeley’s level of assault, attack and total disrespect. The Anto Ganim , Anti Testo message failed for most of the Challengers. They were ill advised and may want to tak to their constituents. There was only one candidate that voted against Mario. She felt taht she needs to sity down and talk to Mario. About what?

      There just aren’t enough Norweigens” that will vote for The candidate of Bob Walsh and Jim Fox. Problem is, one lives in Black Rock and the other in Branford. It is a shame that Lennie has taken the side of the Has been and has not give any kudo’s for Jeanette Herron, A very Hard working community activist that has been very respectful of the opposition. She has been aligned with Tom McCarthy , also a very well respected former candidate that rarely had a bad word to say about his oppostion. The Huge win of the McCarthy /Herron Town Committee ticket spoke volumes. Remember, that huge win against Keeley was without “The Machine” , they were busy with their own campaigns and of course the 138th.

      • Steven Auerbach

        give- given—taht- that Testo-Testa ews -news Anto–anti
        tak- talk sity-sit

        • Jimfox

          Stevie’s Norwegian dialect:
          “give- given—taht- that Testo-Testa ews -news Anto–anti
          tak- talk sity-sit”

          English Translation : Testa will be Charged with Electoral fraud, election manipulation, vote rigging, illegal interference with the process of an election. Both in the 133rd and 138th.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        The City Council is a lot like an open mic night. Anybody can come. Bridgeport’s City Council has been a dog nd pony show for the past twenty-five years, no talent required. Michael De Filippo, “a very nice guy” in Steve’s opinion, is a bartender at one of the restaurants in Mario Testa’s empire. I’m sure his skills as a mixologist will be useful if he wins the 133rd seat.

      • Rich Augustynowicz

        I didn’t say new voters I said young bloods and newly formed
        groups meaning Bridgeport Generation Now; candidates who ran
        and won without “the machines” endorsement; the group known
        as “Bridgeport United Against Corruption”, and other entities
        and persons seeking a change in the local political system.
        Anyone who doesn’t believe that our politics is not corrupt
        and in need of change is living in La La land. We are all aware
        that by its very nature politics has an element of corruption
        and has had it since it was invented in Athens in the Fifth
        century. Some systems are more corrupt than others of course
        and here in Bridgeport it has always appeared to be blatant.
        I don’t know whether or not Keeley supports the liquor store. I don’t even know Keeley and I have never said anything either
        way about Herron, whom I’ve met briefly once or twice. It
        appears that you had a need to defend people when my comments
        did not warrant such a response. The liquor store issue IS an
        extremely good example of how “corruption” works and many an
        article has been written about the situation and many a comment
        made over 2 years. I won’t repeat it now other than to advise
        you and anyone else who does not understand the issue to examine
        it and see how it violates State property rights law and among
        other deceptive tactics, is specifically geared to advance the
        agenda for one while hurting many now and in the future. As far
        as “the very nice guy” as you called him, his past would not
        exactly substantiate that but it’s been documented and I won’t
        repeat it here…again. Nice guys are not what Bridgeport needs.
        We need smart guys..and girls..who have no hidden agendas and
        who can bring intelligence and good ideas with them. That’s all I meant. I believe you may have read into it a bit too much.
        By the way, you mention others such as Fox, Walsh et al. I don’t personally know anyone on this blog. I may have met some in
        passing, even Lennie, but I have no personal affiliation with any.
        Have a nice day.

        • Steven Auerbach

          Mr. Augustynowicz,

          These new bloods are more interested in the future of this city and certainly can not address all candidates in a negative light. The liquor store is your only concern . It is pretty much all you address. In the north end there are liquor stores everywhere and nobody is complaining. Nobody. Brookside has a beautiful store and across the street another. All along north Main street there are liquor stores. Does it matter who wants the liquor store??? Why Mario or his employee. What’s the difference?

          Derek Brown, You may enjoy being part of the in crowd agreeing with Jim Fox or Bob Walsh :-) But your attack of Defilippo is hilarious like you have the employment credentials to attack him. BTW, Keeley has so many questionable issues it is ironic you would support such a political whore and a liar. He has made so many allegations including being offered a job to get out of the race. Yet, when asked 50 times in a thread on Facebook he refused to answer and ranted on like a lunatic that has gone off the deep end. I had to delete his 50 responses on my Facebook page this past week for 2 reasons, It was extremely embarrassed for the insults to members of the DTC, his opposition his ranting was incomprehensible and 2, He was embarrassing himself. I did copy the entire page for future reference before deleting and blocking him. That is pretty much all I have to say on this matter.

          • Rich Augustynowicz

            I’m sorry but you are sadly misinformed about the liquor store issue. Brookside and every other store in the city is opposed to what is underhandedly being attempted by Defilippo et al. You are also uninformed about your friends record.

          • Steven Auerbach

            Rich, I am not uninformed about the other liquor stores and YOU have done your best to do a character assassination of Mr. Defillipo on an earlier blog post. It is all about your Liquor store and nothing else.

          • The Bridgeport Kid

            You are reading into what I said, Steven. I’m not a Keeley supporter. I do, however, support his lawsuit. It uncovered irregularities in the use and collection of absentee ballots. The Supreme Court thought enough to uphold Judge Bellis’s ruling on the matter. Oprn your fucking eyes. It’s not all about the candidates. It’s about ridding Bridgeport politics of the corruption that allowed a convicted felon to be re-elected. Bridgeport Generation Now and Bridgeport United Against Corruption are grassroots organizations of people who are motivated by belief and principal, not politics as usual. But thrn, you wouldn’t know about principal. You sold out your udeals the minute you joined the Bidgeport Democratic Town Committee.

          • The Bridgeport Kid

            Your problems with Bob Keeley are just that: YOUR cross to bear, no one else’s. Do not blame me or anyone else for it.

            You’re more than welcome to stop by tomorrow evening for grog, victuals and great live music. Check your political bullshit at the door.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    No way Mario can help himself,he’s been manipulating Absentee ballots for years,this time won’t be any different.

    • Rich Augustynowicz

      Auerbach: I used to wonder why certain people on the blog maligned you and actually made disparaging comments towards you. I don’t like when that happens but now I know why you are attacked here in that manner. The Bridgeport Liquor group includes Brookside and many other stores in Bridgeport. We all contribute $$ to our attorney who represents us to fight against whats being proposed. We have been defending ourselves from what Defilppo and Willinger and now Haig are attempting to do. We have in our corner, The entire school board who came out to speak in front of the Zoning Commission. The NRZ is unanimously against it. The Cathedral Parish and other church groups are against it. We have had professional real estate people testify how it violates state property right laws. Etc.Etc. This has gone on for over two years and their attempts have failed only to try again in different ways to get what they want. Testimony was presented including numerous white papers written by many learned scholars which show how what they are trying to do negatively impacts urban cities. Members of the city council have come out to speak against the issue. I could go on. So as I said you are not properly versed on the topic, and again, you are sadly ill-informed about your “friend”. I would guess that you are either to tightly wound up with the group and it’s machine and cohorts to see outside of your own little world. As such I will limit my responses towards you here in this venue and as I said before i now understand why they treat you the way you are treated here…Have a nice day.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Augustynowicz,
    Those that malign me on this blog- well their comments speak for themselves and the few that do , well again, their comments speak for themselves. I can tell you that there are more people that do not post on this blog that are in my corner. All I said about you was that your main concern is you yourself and your liquor store. Your character assassination of Defellipo was reprehensible and to talk about why people on here don’t like me? Are you kidding?????????????? I can assure you that the popularity of this blog as dropped considerably when the Webmaster allowed such fowl behavior.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Lets do away with absentee ballots except in rare ocassions. If a person is in a nursing home or hospital they should get an absentee ballot which can be delivered by registrars workers. Your going on vacation you have to go to the registrars office to vote. The rest of the people have to vote in person. The democratic party in Bridgeport has perfected the art of absentee ballots. Enough of this bullshit. The people screwing around with absentee ballots should go to jail for awhile.

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