State Supreme Court to take up bal­lot dis­pute

Jus­tices could or­der new elec­tion or have Gen­eral Assem­bly de­cide case

Stamford Advocate - - News - By Chris­tine Stu­art CTNEWSJUNKIE. COM Con­trib­uted photo Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

HART­FORD — The State Supreme Court on Fri­day granted an ex­pe­dited hear­ing sched­ule over the dis­puted elec­tion re­sult for the state House seat rep­re­sent­ing Strat­ford.

Jim Fee­han of Strat­ford is ask­ing Con­necti­cut’s high­est court to hear his elec­tion ap­peal on an ex­pe­dited ba­sis.

Su­pe­rior Court Judge Bar­bara Bel­lis con­cluded on Nov. 30 that the state con­sti­tu­tion pro­hib­ited the courts from rem­e­dy­ing any con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions by or­der­ing a new elec­tion.

Fee­han sued for a new elec­tion af­ter a re­count found he lost to Rep. Phil Young by 13 votes. He claimed poll work­ers at Bun­nell High School gave bal­lots for the 122nd Assem­bly Dis­trict to those vot­ing in the 120th Assem­bly Dis­trict and that cost him the elec­tion. The re­count showed that 75 vot­ers at Bun­nell High School were de­nied the right to vote in the 120th Assem­bly Dis­trict.

Wil­liam Bloss, an at­tor­ney for Young, suc­cess­fully ar­gued that the courts don’t have ju­ris­dic­tion to de­cide the out­come of state elec­tions and that the re­spon­si­bil­ity re­sides with the House of Representatives. There is a pro­ce­dure in place in the House to have any elec­tion ap­peals heard by a com­mit­tee of two Repub­li­cans and two Democrats.

Fee­han’s at­tor­ney, Proloy Das, said in his ap­peal to Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Richard Robinson that there is a con­flict be­tween the fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion and the state con­sti­tu­tion.

“Un­der the fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion, can­di­dates and elec­tors are en­ti­tled to the right to vote and to have their votes counted equally,” Das wrote. “Here, vot­ers of the 120th Assem­bly Dis­trict were dis­en­fran­chised, de­nied their right to vote for their state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and de­nied equal pro­tec­tion of the law.”

He said the case should be heard on an ex­pe­dited ba­sis be­cause the leg­isla­tive ses­sion be­gins Jan. 9 and the res­i­dents of the 120th Assem­bly Dis­trict are with­out a “duly elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the House of Representatives.”

When Bel­lis de­ter­mined that she had no ju­ris­dic­tion to or­der a new elec­tion she also pro­hib­ited Sec­re­tary of the Fee­han State Denise Mer­rill from cer­ti­fy­ing the re­sults of the elec­tion.

As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Michael Skold, who rep­re­sents Mer­rill, said Thurs­day in court doc­u­ments that the state also wants the Supreme Court to take up this case im­me­di­ately.

In pro­hibit­ing Mer­rill from cer­ti­fy­ing the elec­tion re­sults “the trial court im­per­mis­si­bly — and by its own ad­mis­sion with­out ju­ris­dic­tion — has in­ter­fered with the proper con­duct of the elec­toral process,” Skold wrote.

He ar­gued that’s one of the rea­sons the Supreme Court should take up the mat­ter im­me­di­ately.

“Fur­ther, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, in seek­ing to pre­serve Fee­han’s abil­ity to present his claims to the House, the trial court may have un­wit­tingly pre­vented the House from tak­ing up this dis­pute at all, and in do­ing so has cre­ated even more un­cer­tainty over when and how this elec­tion dis­pute prop­erly can be re­solved,” Skold wrote. “That is be­cause if the State De­fen­dants are en­joined from can­vass­ing the elec­tion re­turns and sub­mit­ting them to the House, then the House ar­guably will not know what the of­fi­cial ‘elec­tion re­turns’ are, and ar­guably will not Young have be­fore it any of­fi­cial ‘elec­tion re­turns’ over which it can ex­er­cise its con­sti­tu­tion­ally del­e­gated power to be the ‘fi­nal judge’.”

Skold said the or­di­nary ap­peals process will not per­mit the court to re­solve these ques­tions be­fore the Gen­eral Assem­bly re­con­venes in Jan­uary.

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