How can a state judge make an informed decision about a winner when election officials say nine votes are missing from the primary day count in a contest separated by one vote?
Good luck with that.
The campaign of City Councilman Marcus Brown, one vote down from incumbent State Rep. Jack Hennessy following a recanvassing of votes on Tuesday, plans to ask the court to remedy this messy situation by ordering a new primary.
The primary night vote totals showed Brown leading by five votes. The recount shifted six votes Hennessy’s way with nine votes somehow misplaced from the bags occupying the correct paper ballots.
How can this happen? Election officials suspected the missing ballots were placed in the wrong bag and were not legally comfortable with searching through the bag of another district without knowing for certain.
The pragmatic resolution is a new election, otherwise many voters in Connecticut’s 127th Assembly District largely occupying Bridgeport’s North End, will feel the outcome is tainted.
OIB reader Joel Gonzalez shares a 9-minute video clip of election officials, in the bewildering set of circumstances, trying to explain the vote disparity between the primary night totals and the recount inside the Morton Government Center.
Hennessy’s Campaign Manager Maria Pereira, hand raised in the video, as Democratic Registrar Patricia Howard addresses campaign officials during the recount, announced after the recanvassing this is not how she wanted her candidate to win the race. Maybe it would behoove Hennessy to join Brown in urging a new vote. If the shoe were on the other foot no doubt Pereira and Hennessy would be running into court.
Election Moderator James Mullen said based on the cards dealt him, even with votes missing, he had to certify the one-vote win for Hennessy.
A court filing will likely end up in the hands of either Superior Court Judge Thomas Welch or Barry Stevens both of whom have handled recent election challenges.
Most judges loathe to mess with the certified results of an election, but this one is very different from the typical charges of alleged voter fraud altering the outcome. This one deals directly with a sizable vote discrepancy in a one-vote difference.
In addition, it’s rare for a smaller State House district, compared to a much larger citywide vote, to experience a six-vote difference between the night of the vote count and the recanvassing days later. Brown operatives believe the nine votes in question would largely swing his way, more reflective of the original tally.
This will be a strange court challenge. Brown must find his own lawyer to represent his campaign. The city would be the defendant in the court action that will question the one-vote outcome. The City Attorney’s Office will represent the city.
Historically, during court challenges to certified votes, the city has argued the integrity of the election outcome was not violated based on the allegations. This case, however, is an outlier. The integrity of the election is definitely at hand.
Election officials in a court challenge will take the stand to share views on the vote discrepancy and reliability of the outcome. They may very well testify election integrity has been compromised.
What is a judge to do?
Fairness on behalf of election integrity should require a new vote.