Ineligible Absentee Ballots Cited in Throwing Out Results of Bridgeport Primary

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BRIDGEPORT – The Superior Court of Bridgeport decided on Tuesday that a new Democratic primary election for State Representative will take place Oct. 18, after finding that voters had failed to sign absentee ballot applications. The campaign of Marcus Brown, who is running against incumbent Jack Hennessy, said it would appeal the decision.

After two recounts and nine missing ballots, Hennessy and Brown, a member of the city council, will appear on the ballot again in the new primary for the 127th District seat.

The court decision originated from a cross complaint by Hennessy in which Judge Barry Stevens ordered the town clerk, registrar of voters and head moderator to produce all absentee ballots for inspection.

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An evidentiary hearing revealed four instances of ineligible absentee ballot applications.

One elector said he did not apply for an absentee ballot, but received one and voted regardless. He explained that the signature found on the application was not his, but rather it was signed by someone unknown to him. 

Three other electors said that their family members or partners had signed applications in their names without their knowledge.

“[T]he court must infer that these four ballots were among the 1114 votes that were so counted,” said Stevens in a summary memorandum. “Because Brown’s margin of victory over Hennessy is two votes and the court finds that four votes must be invalidated, the court does not approve the results of the court ordered manual recount.” 

Brown and the other city defendants argued that the four absentee ballots shouldn’t be rejected as the mistakes were innocent and done without any evidence of violating the law, but Hennessy and Stevens disagreed.

Stevens acknowledged that voters should not be disenfranchised, but said that absentee ballots arriving to voters who did not ask for them “increases the opportunities for fraud and unfairly tilts the election contest against those who followed the rules and signed [their] applications as the law requires.” 

The election law, General Statute § 9-140, held that any person who assists another in the completion of an application must also sign and print their name, address and phone number. None of the four parties did so.

A Wednesday statement from Brown’s campaign stated that they “strongly disagree” with Stevens’s ruling. They said the four voters should not be disenfranchised because a relative signed their absentee ballot.

The campaign announced they will be disputing the ruling to a higher court.

“Because some of the issues in this case are new and have never been decided by an appellate court in Connecticut, we will be appealing to the CT Supreme Court,” said the Brown campaign.

The order announcing the new election was approved by Stevens, the Secretary of the State and the Attorney General. It required the designation of new election officials and stated that canvassing of the results must follow General Statutes guidelines.

Patricia Howard, Democratic registrar of voters, told CT Examiner that she was unsure of how involved she will be in the new election until she receives ruling from the judge, but confirmed that she is in charge of designating the new election officials.

The order also decided that absentee ballot applications will be available beginning Oct. 11. Additionally, any electors who wish to vote in the new primary should register no later than Oct. 14.

The results of the new election will be certified by election officials before or at 5 p.m. on Oct. 19. The final victor will face Republican candidate Anthony Puccio, as planned, in November.