Ortiz Signature Effort To Qualify For State Senate Primary Comes Up Short–Court Action Planned

Juliemar Ortiz seeks petition signatures. From her Facebook page.

If Juliemar Ortiz’s name appears on the ballot for the August 9 Democratic primary for state senate, she’ll need court intervention.

Local and state elections officials on Wednesday said her petition effort to qualify for a primary against Democratic endorsed Herron Gaston and incumbent Dennis Bradley came up short by roughly 30 signatures. She needed 1,585 certified signatures.

In response, Ortiz announced on Wednesday the campaign intends to file a lawsuit.

The district encompasses two thirds of Bridgeport and a piece of Stratford.

At issue, in part, is when a petitioning circulator became a Democrat to seek signatures on behalf of the campaign.

Barring court relief Gaston and Bradley will go head-to-head in the primary.

Ortiz still has another opportunity to qualify for the general election on the Connecticut Working Families Party line. She’d need the WFP endorsement for November. Without that she could also wage a signature campaign for the general election.

Bradley’s federal trial for alleged connivance of Connecticut’s system of publicly funded races is now indefinitely delayed because prosecutors have appealed U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden’s decision to limit a piece of video evidence from Bradley’s 2018 announcement at Dolphin’s Cove in the East End that is a key element of the government’s case.

News release from Ortiz campaign:

Juliemar Ortiz, the progressive challenger for 23rd State Senate  District, announced today that she intends to file a lawsuit against Bridgeport’s Democratic Registrar of Voters over improperly rejected petition signatures, in the hopes of qualifying for the August 9th Democratic primary before ballots are printed.

“We hope that any judge that takes a look at this case sees the clear bias happening inside the registrar’s office and helps us overcome it, an important step towards ending Bridgeport’s long history of anti-democratic practices,” Ortiz said. “It’s incredibly frustrating that we now have to waste precious campaign time fighting in court after my team and volunteers worked hard for weeks collecting the necessary signatures to earn our place on the ballot.”

The Bridgeport Registrar’s office turned petition sheets into the Secretary of State’s Office with over 300 signatures disqualified, without stating a reason for almost any. However, when Ortiz’s campaign reviewed the sheets, they found that dozens of signatures that should have been valid were rejected. The Bridgeport Registrar also selectively enforced rules about voters registering as Democrats, and did not provide what rule was being enforced, nor any prior example of it being used.

It’s also worth noting that before the Bridgeport registrar released their official count, they called the Stratford registrar to inquire how many signatures our campaign had collected there,” Ortiz said. “This highly irregular act gives us strong reason to question whether they impartially did their job, or whether Patricia Howard used her position of power to fix the scales and subvert our democratic process, depriving voters of a fair and transparent election yet again.”

Ortiz needs 1,585 signatures from registered Democrats in the 23rd District to get on the primary ballot. The campaign turned in 1,905 total signatures to the Bridgeport and Stratford registrars’ offices. As of June 22, the Secretary of the State’s office notified the campaign that they had 1,554 valid signatures, 31 short of the required number.

Last week, upon reviewing the sheets, the campaign found over 80 signatures improperly disqualified by Bridgeport’s registrar and requested that they correct the rejections by the June 16 deadline. Unfortunately, that did not happen, as the Registrar’s office claimed to not have copies of Ortiz’s petition sheets in their possession. They mailed the originals to the SOTS and did not file copies in the city’s records.

Ortiz is seeking to win over Democratic voters in the August 9 primary with the hopes of increasing women representation on Bridgeport’s male-dominated legislative delegation. Ortiz would also be the first Latina in history elected to the Connecticut State Senate.

Currently, Ortiz is collecting donations to qualify for public campaign financing from Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program. State Senate campaigns require 300 in-district donors and $17,300 to qualify.

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11 comments

  1. Ron Mackey, did you collect any signatures for Ortiz? See the picture of Juliemar Ortiz on your neighbors front door? You couldn’t do your own street? Did you even sign her petition? Don’t I sound like John Marshall Lee?

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  2. Joel,
    Daily TV is showing examples of behavior in offices that have a responsibility for honest, fair, election behavior according to the rule of law (in each jurisdiction). Unfortunately there are rules that pertain to signers, to solicitors, and to candidates, as well as parties, and ignorance is not an excuse for failing to meet the standard set. However, if large numbers of people are eliminated from petitions, and eliminated without a reason attached to the record, and the records without maintaining a copy of that which was worked upon locally, something seems to be operating in an un-democratic, unprofessional manner. When 80 of 300 signature removals are contested why can’t the Bridgeport Registrar of Voters substantiate her position? Is it a COVID 19 issue? What are the standards of review and how is such training maintained in Bridgeport? Is this a time to put up with improper or unaccountable election processes? Time will tell.

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    1. It sounds as if the Ortiz camp is making assumptions. If they were unable to get copies of official petitions, how do they know that no reasons for rejections was given. When names and signatures are verified, a note or check mark is placed next to signature line: A check mark means a valid signature; NR could mean not registered or U for unregistered; RR registered Republican etc.

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      1. Columbo, the assumptions in given due to the fact it Port city hall politics. That being said, didn’t they state, “Last week, upon reviewing the sheets, the campaign found over 80 signatures improperly disqualified by Bridgeport’s registrar and requested that they correct the rejections by the June 16 deadline. Unfortunately, that did not happen, as the Registrar’s office claimed to not have copies of Ortiz’s petition sheets in their possession.”

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo6CyNNC60M

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  3. Sorry if it seems that my mind is wandering, but I just checked on the fact that we do get to vote on the position of Registrar of Voters, of whom there are two candidates, one Democrat and one Republican. This happens, as it was explained to me because they are Major Parties, though conversation on OIB generally shows that 60% of voters are registered as Dems or Reps, but that leaves the remainder, approaching 40% with no representation for their Unaffiliated status, and no right to participate in primaries.
    When the Ortiz petition process is worked through, in timely fashion, with reasons provided for administrative decisions made, and copies of all forms and documents available in the City, perhaps we can come to a different appreciation for the practices of the Bridgeport Registrar office? Partisan politics is why it may seem very fair to have two registrars, but to the extent they favor one party they can do potential harm or damage to another. How do we monitor FAIRness and professional qualities into the assumed behavior of the Registrar office? Do we need a Voting Practices Board to include oversight of Registrar Department practices? Time will tell.

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    1. If a third party candidate comes in second there would be three registrars on the city payroll. It’s safe to assume the Dem Registrar will always win in Bridgeport. If the Rep Registrar comes in third place then three will be seated.

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  4. JML, notice that there’s no mention of the Town Clerk’s Office. The Registrar’s office doesn’t keep copies of the petitions in their office. The copies of officially approved or rejected petition signature sheets are sent to the Town Clerk’s Office where the public can view and request copies.

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  5. Thank you Joel. You have had more encounters with official processes in the City than I have. Such information as you offer can be tested by the Ortiz petitioners to see if such process as you indicate is practiced. This is a form of practical oversight and can be welcomed by average citizens as they press their interests.

    Information for the “common good” is a worthy purpose of a site like Only In Bridgeport. Imagine civil discussion about issues of governance and politics, across boundaries that may be partisan, but accomplished without rancor or slur? Than each and all. Time does tell.

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