People who oppose expanded use of absentee ballots in elections will find fodder for their arguments in a criminal trial in Stamford.
The city’s former Democratic Party chair is charged with forging 14 absentee ballots in the 2015 municipal election, when Stamford voters filled seats on the Board of Representatives, Board of Finance and Board of Education.
John Mallozzi has pleaded not guilty to 28 Class D felonies, half for second-degree forgery and half for filing false statements in absentee balloting.
In state Superior Court in Stamford Tuesday, Mallozzi’s attorney, Stephan Seeger, said his client is the fall guy for the broken absentee ballot system that existed in the Stamford town clerk’s office in 2015.
The then-clerk, Donna Loglislci, allowed policies “to deviate far from the norm,” Seeger said, when she handed over ballots to Mallozzi in violation of state law. A state inspector who investigated the case said Loglisci should have been charged, but she was not, Seeger said.
Mallozzi chose a bench trial, so Judge Kevin Randolph, who is hearing the case, will render a verdict rather than a jury.
“I encourage the court to pay attention to the element of deception,” Seeger told the judge in his opening statement. Loglisci “had an agreement” with Mallozzi and operated far afield “from her official functions,” he said.
The prosecutor, Assistant State’s Attorney Laurence Tamaccio, opened his case by saying that voting is a sacred democratic right, and ballot fraud “is an affront to this basic ideal.”
Tamaccio said he will call as a witness a handwriting expert who will show that Mallozzi forged the signatures of voters who did not know that absentee ballots had been taken out in their names.
Tamaccio’s first witness Tuesday was Loglisci, who served as Stamford town clerk from 2001 until 2017, when voters did not reelect her. Loglisci testified in response to a subpoena, according to her testimony.
Tamaccio had Loclisci explain the painstaking procedure for fulfilling requests for absentee ballot applications, and then the handling of the ballot “set” once an application is verified using state voter registration rolls.
The set includes an outer envelope, instructions, ballot, and inner envelope, and must be returned properly filled out, packaged and signed by the voter. It is time-stamped, dated, logged in and stored, unopened, in a vault once received by the clerk’s office, Loglisci said.
On election day the clerk hands over the absentee ballots to the registrars of voters for counting.
Loglisci testified that Mallozzi, who as Democratic Party chair was often in her office, asked during the run-up to the 2015 election whether she could provide ballots for voters who were unable to get to the polls.
Asked on the witness stand whether doing so would be “within the proper procedure,” Loglisci said, “No.” Asked whether she “nevertheless agreed to provide the ballots” to Mallozzi, Loglisci said, “Yes.”
Seeger pounced on that point in cross-examination.
“You gave ballots to people who were not the applicants and that is against the law, correct?” Seeger asked.
“Yes,” Loglisci replied.
“How many times did you provide Mr. Mallozzi with ballot sets?” Seeger asked.
“A few times,” Loglisci said.
“So every time you provided the ballot set, you broke the law, correct?” Seeger asked.
“Yes, I did,” Loglsici replied.
Judge Randolph interjected, telling Seeger, “the procedural integrity of the clerk’s office” is not relevant.
“If the thrust of the testimony is, ‘Your office is sloppy,’ where does that take us?” the judge asked. “The court wants to see the logical line between this questioning and the elements of the offense,” which is ballot fraud.
Randolph then adjourned until Wednesday morning, when Seeger’s cross-examination of Loglisci will continue.
At least one current employee in the town clerk’s office received a subpoena to testify.
The case came to light during the 2015 municipal election, when a man was told at his polling place that he could not vote because he’d already voted by absentee ballot.
It turned out that a ballot had been taken out in the man’s name without his knowledge. Investigators said they traced it to Mallozzi. They later said they found 13 other ballots that appeared to be forged.
Mallozzi, who chaired the Stamford Democratic City Committee from 2012 to 2016 and sat on the Democratic State Central Committee, was arrested in January 2019 after a 20-month investigation by state election officials, who then turned the case over to the state’s attorney.