Judge blocks state from certifying Stratford election winner
BRIDGEPORT - A judge barred the secretary of the state from certifying a winner in Stratford’s election for the state house of representatives.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis Friday afternoon granted a motion for an emergency injunction until the state house has a chance to decide who will represent the 120th assembly district.
“The court is ensuring the house has the opportunity to exercise its authority,” the judge ruled.
Republican candidate James Feehan sued for a new election after a recount found he had lost to Democratic Incumbent candidate Phil Young by 13 votes. He claimed an error by the election workers at the Bunnell High School polling place in which they gave ballots for the 122nd district to those voting in the 120th district cost him the election.
“This was a clear-cut win for us and a win for the voters of Stratford,” Feehan said after the judge’s ruling. “The judge has ruled that we have a good chance of winning on the merits of our case and she did what was appropriate.”
But Young’s lawyer, William Bloss, said the judge’s decision will have no effect on the outcome of the election.
“She agreed this case did not belong in court and this order stopping certification is fundamentally meaningless. This is still up to the house which we said all along.”
Under state law the secretary of the state has to the end of November to certify the winners of the recent election for state offices.
Bloss argued Friday that state courts don’t have the jurisdiction to decide the outcomes of state elections. He said under the Connecticut Constitution only the house can decide who is seated in the house and that there is a procedure in place for the house to appoint a committee of two Republicans and two Democrats to decide election appeals.
But Young’s lawyer, Proloy Das, said leaving the outcome of the election to the house would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution. He cited the court case of George Bush versus Al Gore that resulted in a federal judge upholding Bush’s presidential victory.
“The voters of Stratford should decide who represents them in the house of representatives not the legislature,” he told the judge.
After taking a brief recess following arguments, Bellis agreed that the house not she should decide the election’s outcome.
“The court is without jurisdiction, the court cannot and may not infringe on the house’s authority,” she said.
However, the judge continued that Feehan has no other remedy of law and would suffer irreparable harm if the secretary of the state is allowed to certify a winner before Feehan has a chance to appeal to the house.
Voting for both the 120th district and the 122nd assembly district was held at Bunnell High School. But around midday Nov. 6, a voter for the 120th district noticed he had been handed a ballot for the 122nd. Young and Feehan were not on the ballot for the 122nd.
It was determined that a packet of ballots for the 122nd district had been given out to voters for the 120th.
After the election, the Registrar of Voters discovered that in the 120th district, 1,575 voter names had been crossed off the official checklist but only 1,499 ballots had been processed, a difference of 76 fewer ballots than voters, according to court papers. In the checklist of the 122nd, 952 names had been crossed off the official checklist, but 1,031 ballots were processed, a difference of 79 more ballots than voters.
The recanvas showed that, at Bunnell High School, a total of 859 votes were cast for Feehan, 608 votes for Young, 6 votes for Prez Palmer, and 27 ballots presented no votes in the race for the 120th Assembly District. The voter checklist for the 120th district showed that 1,575 voters at Bunnell High School received ballots. The recanvas showed that 75 voters at Bunnell High School were denied the right to vote in the 120th Assembly District.