Absentee Ballots And The Influence Of Independent Expenditures In Board Of Education Primary

The September 10 Democratic primary for Board of Education is the battle royal of elections because so much is on the line for policy-setting control of the largest chunk of the municipal budget overseeing roughly 20,000 students. Absentee ballots may decide this primary between a slate of three endorsed Dems and three insurgent challengers with independent campaign expenditures flooding into the city.

The Town Clerk’s Office charged with processing absentee ballot applications and the actual ballots is in overdrive trying to accommodate a blizzard of requests from folks who claim they cannot make it to the polls. Such is life in the state’s largest city where absentee ballot activity is a product of pols seeking an edge. It’s likely at least 10 percent of electors casting a vote in the primary will come via absentee ballot. Yes, that percentage runs far ahead of most municipalities.

The primary features endorsed candidates backed by the city’s political establishment challenged by opponents supported by leadership from the Bridgeport Education Association representing unionized school workers and the Connecticut Working Families Party that has elected three of nine members to the school board. The opposition slate also has pockets of support from disaffected Democratic political operatives.

Come September 10 the party-endorsed names Kathryn Bukovsky, Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark will appear on the top line; challengers Andre Baker, David Hennessey and Howard Gardner on the second line. The candidates are knocking on doors, making phone calls and reviewing mail plans. But sometimes these local elections are decided outside the purview of the candidates by folks the candidates have never met. How could that be? Sometimes it’s better not to know who’s capable of processing a few hundred votes via absentee ballot. Paging Sergeant Schultz: “I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!”

We also now live in the world of the independent expenditure courtesy of the United States Supreme Court. This is where political operatives–and both sides have them–maneuver to put candidates they support over the top or sink the ones they oppose with a surge of outside money. It’s all legal, as long as what’s being communicated to the voter is not “coordinated” between supporters (or opponents) of the candidate committee and the outside organization. What does that mean? You can advocate and spend what you want on behalf of candidate(s) you support–or oppose–provided it’s not made in consultation with the candidate(s) or authorized committee.

Last November the money spent to influence how school board members are chosen broke records for a city general election. Voters decided, in a City Charter amendment question, they prefer to continue to elect Board of Education candidates rather than authorize the mayor to appoint them. Come September 10, this primary will also break records for the amount of money expended in a school board race.

And the number of absentee ballots (or not) processed by workers in the Town Clerk’s Office could very well decide the results of this primary.



  1. Off topic … Huffington News announced today no individual will be allowed to post a comment without using their real name. It seems they have had the same issues of individuals taking advantage of their anonymity to post negative personal comments.

  2. Troll,
    You use your real name when suggesting Auerbach is a schmuck. I guess der Schmekel is simply a magnet for disparaging remarks regardless of what his detractors call themselves.

  3. *** Hell, where would the Bpt DTC be without A/Bs? Last Mayoral election turnout was about 18% citywide counting A/Bs; could the A/B tally then been about 10% also? *** FRIGHTENING! ***

  4. What a grand education tool for all teachers. We can have town committee members come around to homeroom to have students fill out ballot applications using the names given to them. After school the next day, the kids can run down the street of their neighborhoods collecting live ballots from mailboxes. Now that is a practical education ladies and gentlemen. These are truly the good old days …

  5. A visit with a BHA resident yesterday produced comments on how the “helpful democratic” process works in her area. A member of the Absentee Ballot ‘Royal Family’ was a regular visitor at events billed as City events where Mayor Finch was expected. However, Mayor Finch, unfortunately, was otherwise occupied on most of those dates. Did not stop the chatting and signing up until ‘Queen’s events’ were limited.

    Problem came on election day when folks showed up at the polls and their names were not available to vote. They had voted already!!! Surprised? You bet.

    Another rumor the Queen does not live where she has reported in the past? Why are residences so hard to establish in Bridgeport? Perhaps it might be another part of the ‘conflict of interest’ ethics disclosure intended by the Mayor?

    Just think if full and complete disclosure of resident address, used for legal matters including IRS filing were required for starters? And then on pain of financial penalty and other onerous consequences, it places the duty of reporting changes within 30 days of future moves? Would that change fast and loose address behavior in the City? What do you think? Time will tell.

  6. No offense to our anonymous commenters, but I like this idea. Huffington Post is eliminating anonymous commenting.

    “Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats,” Huffington said in comments to reporters after a speech at Hubspot’s Inbound 2013 conference in Boston. The changeover will come in mid-September, she said.

    “I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and not hiding behind anonymity,” she said. “We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet,” she said. The current Huff Po system uses advanced algorithms to moderate comments plus 40 moderators, but that is not enough now, she said.

    In print, letters to the editor have to include a name, address and phone number in order to be printed. Anonymity, on the other hand, is a shield that allows total latitude to say anything without any personal accountability.

      1. anna, based on your most recent comment, our investigators have identified you as none other than … Charles Brown. Better known amongst his friends as Charlie!


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