Supreme Court to Take Up Stratford Election Appeal
HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 5:30 p.m.)The Connecticut Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on an expedited basis in the election complaint involving the 120th Assembly District race in Stratford.
Jim Feehan, the Republican candidate who lost the election and a lower court ruling for a new election, asked Connecticut’s highest court to hear his election appeal.
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 on Wednesday, January 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 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 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.
Oral arguments were scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 21.