Court rules GOP will go on top of ballots

In the race for Connecticut’s open state and congressional seats, the Republicans will be on top — at least on top of the ballot.

The state Supreme Court issued a decision on Wednesday, Sept. 26, that requires the Republican Party’s candidates for office in the Nov. 6 election be placed on the first line of the ballots.

State law gives the top line of the ballot to the party of the winner of the most recent gubernatorial race. Because that winner in 2010 was Democrat Dannel Malloy, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill had planned to list Democrats first on the ballots.

However, the Republican Party of Connecticut challenged that decision, based on the fact Mr. Malloy received fewer votes on the Democratic line than his Republican opponent Tom Foley had on the Republican line. Mr. Malloy had been cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, and it was these votes that, when combined with those cast on the Democratic line, gave him the victory in the governor’s race.

Chapter 147, Section 9-249a of the Connecticut state statutes, deals with the order of parties on the ballot.

The statute states the first party to be listed on a ballot is “the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election.”

The secretary of the state’s office interpreted this to mean that Mr. Malloy was the Democratic Party’s candidate; therefore, because he received the most overall votes, the Democrats should be listed first in this election.

The Republican Party — and ultimately the state Supreme Court agreed — argued the wording of the statute is intended to refer to parties, not specific candidates, so the party that received the most votes should go on top.

Reaction

“While I am surprised at the outcome today, I am confident that my office interpreted the statute in good faith and with due diligence,” Ms. Merrill said in a press release issued Sept. 26. “My staff interpreted the law back in 2011, for the municipal election ballot that year, relying on recent precedent, thorough research and a careful analysis of the statute. The Supreme Court disagrees with our view, and I respect the court’s final decision in this matter. The Republican Party will be on the top line of the ballot in accordance with the court’s order.”

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. was pleased with the state Supreme Court’s decision.

“In the party’s view, the language of the statute clearly states that Republicans should receive the top line based on the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election,” Mr. Labriola said in a press release issued the day of the court decision. “I regret that it was necessary to file a legal action in response to the secretary of state’s incorrect interpretation of election law, but I am pleased that our Republican candidates will have their rightful place on the top ballot line for the Nov. 6, 2012, election.”

Although ballots were supposed to be sent to municipalities across the state by Sept. 15, the secretary of the state’s office had been holding off on printing ballots until the Supreme Court made its decision. Ms. Merrill said she is pleased the court made its decision in time for ballots to be printed accurately.

“With the timing of this decision, we now feel confident that absentee ballots should be available for distribution by town clerks by the Oct. 5 statutory deadline,” she said in her release.

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