Cross post from HatCityBLOG
What a mess.
The passing of City Councilman Gregg Seabury over the weekend has created quite a situation in Danbury; it is horrible that people who are mourning the passing of Seabury are forced to deal with this situation but unfortunately, this is where we are at right now.
As I stated in an earlier post, according to state law, a replacement to Seabury needed to be on file with the Town Clerk’s office by 2PM today.
Here’s the exact wording of Connecticut State Statue 9-640 (relevant portion is in bold):
Sec. 9-460. Vacancy in nomination; withdrawal procedure. Certification of replacement nomination; time limitations. Ballot labels. If any party has nominated a candidate for office, or, on and after November 4, 1981, if a candidate has qualified to appear on any ballot by nominating petition under a reserved party designation, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, and such nominee thereafter, but prior to twenty-four days before the opening of the polls on the day of the election for which such nomination has been made, dies, withdraws such nominee’s name or for any reason becomes disqualified to hold the office for which such nominee has been nominated (1) such party or, on and after November 4, 1981, the party designation committee may make a nomination to fill such vacancy or provide for the making of such nomination as its rules prescribe, and (2) if another party that is qualified to nominate a candidate for such office does not have a nominee for such office, such party may also nominate a candidate for such office as its rules prescribe. No withdrawal, and no nomination to replace a candidate who has withdrawn, under this section shall be valid unless the candidate who has withdrawn has filed a letter of withdrawal signed by such candidate with the Secretary of the State in the case of a state or district office or the office of state senator or state representative from any district, or with the municipal clerk in the case of a municipal office other than state senator or state representative. A copy of such candidate’s letter of withdrawal to the municipal clerk shall also be filed with the Secretary of the State. No nomination to fill a vacancy under this section shall be valid unless it is certified to the Secretary of the State in the case of a state or district office or the office of state senator or state representative from any district, or to the municipal clerk in the case of a municipal office other than state senator or state representative, by the organization or committee making such nomination, at least twenty-one days before the opening of the polls on the day of the election, except as otherwise provided by this section. If a nominee dies within twenty-four days, but prior to twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls on the day of the election for which such nomination has been made, the vacancy may be filled in the manner prescribed in this section by two o’clock p.m. of the day before the election with the municipal clerk or the Secretary of the State, as the case may be. If a nominee dies within twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls and prior to the close of the polls on the day of the election for which such nomination has been made, such nominee shall not be replaced and the votes cast for such nominee shall be canvassed and counted, and if such nominee receives a plurality of the votes cast, a vacancy shall exist in the office for which the nomination was made. The vacancy shall then be filled in a manner prescribed by law. A copy of such certification to the municipal clerk shall also be filed with the Secretary of the State. Such nomination to fill a vacancy due to death or disqualification shall include a statement setting forth the reason for such vacancy. If at the time such nomination is certified to the Secretary of the State or to the municipal clerk, as the case may be, the ballot labels have already been printed, the Secretary of the State shall direct the municipal clerk in each municipality affected to (A) have the ballot labels reprinted with the nomination thus made included thereon, (B) cause printed stickers to be affixed to the ballot labels so that the name of any candidate who has died, withdrawn or been disqualified is deleted and the name of any candidate chosen to fill such vacancy appears in the same position as that in which the vacated candidacy appeared, or (C) cause blank stickers to be so affixed if the vacancy is not filled.
History: 1963 act restated previous provisions; P.A. 81-447 amended section to include candidates qualifying by nominating petition under a reserved party designation; P.A. 82-247 amended section to clarify procedure for filing withdrawal of candidacy by nominee; P.A. 83-475 amended section to create ten-day period before election or primary during which vacancies are not to be filled except in case of death of candidate; P.A. 94-203 added Subdiv. (2) re stickers, replacing former provision requiring stickers if nomination certified less than 96 hours before polls open, and added Subdiv. (3) re blank stickers, effective July 1, 1994; P.A. 03-216 designated existing provision re filling vacancy as Subdiv. (1), added Subdiv. (2) authorizing another party that does not have a nominee to also nominate a candidate for the office for which there is a vacancy in nomination and made technical changes, effective July 1, 2003; P.A. 07-194 changed “ten days” to “twenty-four days” and “seven days” to “twenty-one” days, effective July 5, 2007.
Since Seabury’s passing was more than twenty-four hours from the opening of polls on Election Day, the Danbury Republican Town Committee (DRTC) had until 2PM to file a replacement candidate with the Town Clerk office. If no candidate is filed, Seabury’s spot on the ballot becomes vacant and Democratic at-large city councilman with the most votes would automatically win the seat.
It was rumored that auto dealer Bruce Bennett’s name was to be filed with the Town Clerk’s office…but later it became apparent that the Republican Party would be taking a different approach…
A state law saying a candidate who dies within 24 days of an election, but at least 24 hours before it must be replaced by the candidate’s party or removed from the ballot. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, said this could be done either by blacking out the candidate’s name or affixing a sticker over it bearing the name of a replacement.
But Danbury GOP leaders said there simply wasn’t time since Seabury’s death to do either.
“There really is no way that we can black out his name on more than 20,000 ballots before tomorrow’s election,” GOP Mayor Mark Boughton said Monday, “It’s impossible.”
Mayor Boughton’s complaint is reasonable given that the law is outdated; the law written in 1963 and last amended in 2007, prior to the implementation of optical voting method, which are ballot-based, as opposed to the old voting method that was machine based.
Since Seabury passed away over the weekend, and City Hall is not opened on the weekends, the Registrar of Voters had only today to modify all of the ballots…a tall order when you’re talking about 20,000 ballots as opposed to the time when voting machines were used.
Boughton’s other concerns pertains to defacing ballots…
The mayor noted that another state law bans the defacing of any official election ballot.
Here’s what the state statue has to say about tampering with ballots (CGS 9-367)…note the portion in bold:
Sec. 9-367. Tampering with ballot or voting tabulator. Any person, not being an election official, who, with intent to cause or permit any ballot, voting tabulator or other appliance used in connection with such tabulator to fail to correctly register any vote cast upon such ballot, tabulator or other appliance, during any election or before any election, tampers with a voting tabulator, disarranges, defaces, injures or impairs the same in any manner, or mutilates, injures or destroys any ballot or any other appliance used in connection with such tabulator, shall be guilty of a class C felony.
Based on my reading of the law, Boughton’s interpretation of the statue is incorrect.
According to state law, election officials can modify ballots…or in this case, remove Seabury’s name from the ballot.
Finally, there’s this comment from Danbury RTC Vice chair Mike Safranek:
“A reasonable person can conclude that the legislative intent was a window of 24 business hours,” he said, citing that the Town Clerk’s Office opened Monday at 7:30 a.m. “Our position is that we are within the 24 hours.
Again, the state statue is pretty clear…
If a nominee dies within twenty-four days, but prior to twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls on the day of the election for which such nomination has been made, the vacancy may be filled in the manner prescribed in this section by two o’clock p.m. of the day before the election with the municipal clerk or the Secretary of the State, as the case may be.
Okay, this one isn’t even close…Safranek is beyond wrong…
It doesn’t matter when City Hall is open as it’s irrelevant to the law…the only thing that matters is the time in which the candidate dies. The law states that if an person who is on the ballot dies more up to twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls on Election Day, a replacement candidate must be filed no later than 2PM before Election Day.
Ugh…again, this whole matter is tragic and a mess…a mess that only a judge can clean up.