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Petitioning Candidates Reach Deadline, But Will They Qualify?

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 6, 2014 4:30am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Jonathan Pelto and Joe Visconti sign each others petitions last month

Ahead of today’s 4 p.m. deadline to submit voter signatures, petitioning gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti said he’s confident he will meet the signature threshold while Jonathan Pelto said he is encountering unexpected barriers in the process.

Pelto, a liberal blogger and former lawmaker, and Visconti, a conservative former West Hartford town councilman, are trying to petition onto the November gubernatorial ballot to challenge Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Both need to collect the signatures of 7,500 voters in order appear on the ballot with Malloy and a Republican candidate. Each town clerk has two weeks to verify the signatures on the petitions submitted by today’s deadline.

By the deadline, Visconti said his campaign will have submitted between 10,300 and 10,500 signatures to local town clerks. He said he was confident that would give him an adequate buffer to ensure he appears on the ballot if some percentage of the signatures are rejected.

“I could not conceive of more than 30 percent [being rejected],” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not worried at all, not one minute or one bit and I have no doubt I’ll be on the ballot.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Pelto said he was still “hopeful” he would make that threshold, but has found the process of getting voter signatures vetted by municipal and state officials cumbersome.

“Democracy is a messy thing. This system that they’ve created is more complex than simply going out and getting 7,500 names,” Pelto said, adding that the signature threshold itself was an appropriate policy. But he said the submission has been “complex, convoluted, and primitive. It hasn’t been updated in a long time.”

Pelto’s campaign has been sending waves of volunteers to submit petition forms to local town clerks for the past few weeks. Those forms are beginning to arrive at the Secretary of the State’s Office in Hartford. Pelto stopped by there Monday, and said he found local officials had disqualified about 10 percent of the submitted signatures.

In many cases, the signatures were appropriately rejected because the signer was not a registered voter. But Pelto said he was alarmed to see some signatures had been disqualified by local officials for questionable reasons.

For instance, signatures had been rejected because the person who signed did not include their birth date. State statute does not require the inclusion of a birth date. In another case, it appeared as if a woman’s signature was tossed out because she signed under her married name but was registered to vote under her maiden name, he said.

Pelto said he was also concerned because town clerks in two municipalities have called and insisted it was his campaign’s responsibility to turn the signatures in to the state.

“Have the other town clerks not sent them in to Hartford? We don’t know,” he said. “We have to call every town clerk and say ‘By the way, do you have any Pelto petitions hanging around there?’”

Pelto would like the responsibility of checking the work of local voting officials to fall on Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office rather than on him, the petitioning candidate.

Merrill’s spokesman, Av Harris, said the office was aware of Pelto’s concerns and could follow up individual discrepancies or problems he found.

“We heard what [Pelto] had to say and we told him what the law was. We can follow up on individual cases if he has a report of some individual towns where he encountered a problem,” Harris said.

However, he said the Secretary of the State’s Office is not equipped with enough staff to check up on the work of all the local election administrators.

“If we get a report of widespread problems, that doesn’t really help us. We don’t have hundreds of inspectors to send out to all these towns,” he said.

Pelto’s not the only one who believes the petition process could use some streamlining. Connecticut Town Clerk Association President Joyce Mascena, town clerk of Glastonbury, said the clerk’s association is open to working with Merrill’s office and the legislature to change it.

“It is a cumbersome process, I will agree with that,” she said. “It’s an antiquated system. I think was designed for a much different time in our history.”

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(12) Comments

posted by: dano860 | August 6, 2014  6:28am

Having Jonathan in this will bring out some great debates. His views and opinions will get the juices and responses flowing from the party candidates. Maybe we will get better answers and clarifications from them if they feel threatened.

posted by: Noteworthy | August 6, 2014  9:31am

Let’s keep it real. Those in political power, especially the Dems, but really all sitting incumbents do not want to streamline, or make it easier for real democracy to occur. They have intentionally stacked the deck against petitioning and frankly, Sec. of State Denise Merrill is part of the problem, not the solution. She should be at the front of voter registrations, and anything else, including the petition process, that will promote democracy and voter participation. Instead, Merrill, herself a product of the Dem insider process, sits on her hands and has done absolutely nothing about it.

posted by: CT Jim | August 6, 2014  11:39am

@noteworthy, that’s pure hogwash. Your whining because Visconti has the numbers and will pull from republicans and the other guy may not make it. It wasn’t a problem when Lieberman did it in 2006 and he only took a couple weeks to get it done and was in the middle of an active primary campaign. I have been involved in many races that needed signatures to get on the ballot and got there. The real question here should be is: if this guy has so much grassroots support why wasn’t he qualified weeks ago? And it’s not the secretary of states problem to oversea every single aspect of petitions because somebody over estimated their appeal. If she did that she would only have time for that. Who knows he may get there but if he doesn’t it’s because he had too few volunteers and bad organization. So how was he gonna run a state?

posted by: LongJohn47 | August 6, 2014  12:42pm

@ct Jim—agree completely.  the petition process is cumbersome, for sure, but he’s had enough time to get it done.

much less fair are the public financing requirements.  there’s no chance that Pelto will qualify for funding, so if he does get on the ballot he’ll depend on “earned media” (as opposed to “paid media”) to get his message out.

posted by: Bethy | August 6, 2014  1:06pm

Bethy

what a big joke..waste of news article space

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | August 6, 2014  2:32pm

Pelto appears to be pitiful in this article. I’m that’s not the ‘earned media’ he was hoping for. Does Pelto’s running mate have to get signatures as well?  How about Visconti’s running mate?  Who is it?

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | August 6, 2014  3:40pm

Ok.  So Chester Harris, evolutionary theory critic is Visconti’s running mate. According to courantblogs.com: Harris, 53, rejects evolution. To him, the idea that humans and apes share a common ancestor takes “a whole lot more faith than believing there was a creator who set all these things in motion and allows us to operate under free will.”

I sure hope Visconti qualifies.

posted by: art vandelay | August 6, 2014  3:57pm

art vandelay

@Noteworthy,
I believe you hit the nail right on the head.  The same thing happened when activists tried to get initiative, referendum & recall instituted. The only way it can be done realistically in Connecticut is through a Constitutional Amendment or Constitutional Convention.  This can only happen every 20 years when the people actually get a chance to vote for a Convention.  Interest groups formed funded by the Unions to defeat it as it was a few years back.  There is no way on earth the Legislature will pass Initiative, Referendum & Recall because it would relinquish the power they crave.

posted by: art vandelay | August 6, 2014  3:58pm

art vandelay

It’s also interesting to note that registering to vote and voting is SO much easier than getting on the ballot as a candidate.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | August 6, 2014  7:47pm

Why should any one have to get signatures.Just use IRV VOTING.

posted by: NutmegDemocrat | August 8, 2014  2:33pm

I for one, certainly hope Mr. Pelto cleared the bar. I was about to hold my nose and vote for Foley.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | August 8, 2014  3:19pm

@NutmegDemocrat - I’m sure Pelto’s striking inability to run an effective petition campaign is no indicator of how he’d run the State (read sarcasm).  Seems you still might get your chance to vote for Foley.  Pelto might just turn out to be a gasbag.