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Following Complaint, City Orders New Ballots
by Paul Bass | Aug 22, 2013 4:30 pm
Posted to: Campaign 2013
The city clerk’s office ordered a new batch of 4,000 absentee ballots Thursday after the manager of Toni Harp’s mayoral campaign complained to the state about their “subjective” design.
The campaign manager, Jason Bartlett, reacted in outrage upon the release Thursday of the design of the ballot for the Sept. 10 Democratic Party mayoral, city/town clerk and aldermanic primaries.
“She’s been manipulating the ballot!” Bartlett said of Deputy City Clerk Sally Brown while pointing to a sample ballot print-out from her office’s website. “This has never been done before in the history of the state!”
The ballot complicates the Harp team’s ability to deliver a simple message to voters about what row to check off at the polls.
Bartlett complained to the secretary of the state’s office about several aspects of the ballot. The state ended up largely agreeing with Brown on most of the issues but found one small error to fix: the placement of a line that proclaims that the ballot contains no endorsed candidates.
The city had ordered 4,000 absentee ballots to begin sending out to voters. As a result of a conversation with the secretary of the state’s office, Brown decided to scrap those ballots (a total of two people had voted in person with that ballot so far as of the time she made the decision Thursday) and order the new batch with the endorsement message placed in a different spot. She said she expects to have her staff come in to work Saturday morning to get those ballots in the mail so voters can receive them on Monday. (The ballots used at polls on primary day itself have not yet been printed. They will look the same.)
Campaign manager Bartlett had sought broader changes in the ballot’s design.
Bartlett objected in part to the decision not to place any names of candidates on the top row of the ballot, the spot usually reserved for party-endorsed candidates, or else (in the absence of endorsed candidates) the candidates whose names come first in alphabetical order.
Harp’s name appears on the ballot alongside city/town clerk candidate Michael Smart on Row B, not Row A. They appear there because they petitioned to get on the ballot as a “slate.” That put them ahead of other candidates who petitioned alone to get on the ballot.
On the ballots as originally printed, the following bilingual message appeared on Row A: “No Party Endorsement/ No Hay Endorso.”
“No judge is going to allow you to skip a row. You don’t start editorializing on a ballot line,” Bartlett argued.
Brown (pictured) responded that she merely followed the rules given to her by the secretary of the state’s office. That’s why she left the row blank except for the “no endorsement” message. She prepared the ballot in consultation with secretary of the state staff attorney Ted Bromley.
She said she didn’t put the names of candidates on line A—the line she said is traditionally reserved for endorsed party candidates—“because there is no endorsed slate” of candidates. The Democratic Town Committee voted at a July 23 convention to endorse Harp, Smart, and a slate of aldermanic candidates at a convention. But then officials neglected to meet a deadline for submitting their names to the clerk’s office, thereby losing the endorsed slot on the ballot. Hundreds of Harp supporters then gathered signatures on petitions to place Harp’s name on the ballot.
Later Thursday afternoon both Brown and secretary of the state spokesman Av Harris said they agreed that the “no endorsement” message should appear instead in the headers of each category (like “mayor” and “city/town clerk”) rather than in Row A: and that Row A should remain blank.
Bartlett also objected to the decision to start listing aldermanic candidates on Row C, rather than on Harp’s and Smart’s row, in wards holding aldermanic primaries. The ballot currently leaves the “alderperson” column blank on Harp’s and Smart’s Row B; the first name of an aldermanic candidate appears on line C, beside mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina and clerk candidate Sergio Rodriguez. (Click here to see all the ballots for wards that include aldermanic primaries.)
Brown responded that she couldn’t place aldermanic candidates on Harp’s line precisely because of the Harp campaign’s decision to petition as a slate with clerk candidate Smart—but without any aldermanic candidates. The Harp campaign found a law that allowed them to add Smart’s name in order to qualify as a slate—and thereby obtain the top line on the ballot—to avoid having her name would appear on the bottom row (because it comes last alphabetically among the four Democratic mayoral candidates)..
“He [Bartlett] dug up that law” about qualifying for a top row with a slate, Brown said. “Now they want aldermen on the line, too.” State law doesn’t permit that, Brown said.
“That is correct,” secretary of the state spokesman Harris concurred.
Bartlett argued that a mayor-clerk “slate” like Harp-Smart differs from a traditional party “slate” like “Republican” or “Working Party,” and therefore should allow for having a separate aldermanic candidate listed beside it.
“According to the law, which we admit is complicated, candidates for the post of alderman cannot appear on the same line as a candidate for a city-wide office such as mayor or city/town clerk. A slate includes candidates for like office such as a city-wide post,” Av Harris responded.
It’s unclear how important ballot order is in the post-party lever era, in which voters fill out their choices for each candidate by hand rather than pulling levers on a machine, including, in the old days, a lever that covers an entire row of candidates.
You’ll Need A Scorecard
Even if Brown had placed aldermanic candidates’ names on a row with Harp, some of those candidates would still have been opponents of candidates who are in fact running with Harp’s and the Democratic Town Committee’s support. That’s because all aldermanic candidates are petitioning candidates, thanks to the DTC post-convention paperwork goof. And none petitioned on a slate with a mayoral candidate. So their names all appear alphabetically on the ballot.
As a result, Harp-backed aldermanic candidates like Dixwell’s Jeanette Morrison, Dwight’s Frank Douglass, the Hill’s Jackson-Brooks, Fair Haven Heights’ Barbara Constantinople, and Newhallville’s Delphine Clyburn will see their names appear on a row next to that of either mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina or mayoral candidate Justin Elicker.
The Carolina campaign, meanwhile, is sending a simple message to its supporters: “Vote Row C.” (A campaign hand-out is pictured above.) The row includes city clerk candidate Sergio Rodriguez, who at this point has not aligned with a mayoral candidate. But the Carolina camp doesn’t mind.
Carolina aide Michael Jefferson recalled that he had opposed Bartlett’s efforts to win permission to have Harp petition along with clerk candidate Smart as a slate.
“Be careful,” Jefferson said Thursday, “what you wish for.”
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I can’t wait until Bartlett gets to play an active part in the administration of this City. Together with Harp it will be one for the ages.
posted by: Tim Holahan on August 22, 2013 5:46pm
Sally Brown is one of the friendliest and most competent public servants I’ve encountered in my decade as an engaged New Havener. I can’t imagine anyone who knows Sally or her work for the city accusing her of “manipulating” anything.
The state’s decision confirms the groundlessness of this charge.
This is an important political contest. It should be taken seriously. Leveling irresponsible accusations does not qualify.
Classic union methodology. Game the system with every angle to attempt to rig the outcome. And please apologists, don’t claim that the Ward Committee and DTC endorsements were anything but the results of a coldly calculated power grab.
Is there anything the Harp campaign does not whine about? If Toni is so great, why does it matter where on the ballot her name appears? Jason is a real piece of work. Why she chose him to manage her campaign is beyond comprehension. The guy has not done one thing correctly.
The whining is annoying; they need to cut it out.
Instead of complaining about Harp and Smart pairing off as a ticket why didn’t one of the other mayoral candidates run with Rodriguez or someone else as a slate. They could have done that too instead of griping. Why does Sally Brown say the law “was dug up.” Sounds like it upset her. Very telling .
And the laundry list of complaints continues from the Harp campaign. Get over yourselves already. It’s getting to be sickening.
I was thinking the same thing Tim. Totally agree!
I understand they may have an issue with the way the ballot is set up, But I think it should stay as is. The only screw up was with their campaigner not doing the most basic of tasks..getting the paper work in on time!
I don’t doubt that Sally Brown is a dedicated and competent civil servant (or that the ballot conforms to the requirements of state law), and I find virtually everthing Jason Bartlett says to be really irritating. But that is one confusing ballot.
I do not like Carolina as much as I don’t like Elicker. But I have to say that the Carolina hand=out pictured in this article is by far the best designed I have seen from this campaign. Nice job whoever did it.
Robn is right.
The arrogance that’s been shown in this campaign by Harp staffers and supporters has them acting as if they own the place.
If they do get to run the place, heaven help us all.
They have completely alienated me.
Filling in the dot next to your chosen candidate is confusing?
An early NHI article reported that Carolina had a running mate for City Clerk http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/hundreds_jam_elks_club_for_carolina_campaign/.
When/why did she decide not to run?
Elm City Prof
a family member’s health issue took priority.
I think you know what I mean, robn. The ballot makes it look like Carolina and Rodriguez are a slate (along with an alder candidate in certain wards). Carolina is already trying to capitalize on that. (I wonder whether Rodriguez appreciates the association.) Fernandez may as well be Lyndon LaRouche, all alone at the bottom. And it’s definitely weird to start the alders at Row C (although I understand that that’s apparently a requirement of state law and Bartlett’s got to lie in the bed he made).
I’m no ballot design expert, but it seems to me that it’s more intuitive to list the offices in the rows and the candidates in the columns, which conforms with left-to-right reading. I highly doubt it will affect the outcome, but, as ballots go, I can see some cause for grumbling among various and sundry candidates.
The primary goal of a ballot is to make sure that the office being sought by each candidate is clear (the columns for Mayor, Clerk, and Aldermen should be clear and succinct…probably with an emprty column between each.
The secondary goal of a ballot is to make party affiliation clear (in this case its a primary so that doesn’t matter).
The tertiary (really low priority) goal of a ballot is to make relationships amongst candidates clear. I say this is a low priority because its a long term trend in voting to eliminate slate voting (the lever that selects a whole row) and to let voters who are aware of a relationship make their own choices.
Long and short of it, an empty column between offices would be slightly clearer, but if you don’t understand this very clear ballot, you probably don’t understand the candidates enough to be voting for any of them anyway.
Can we get an article on absentee ballot vote pulling? Elderly facilities especially- where a canidate or proxy- shows up to an organized gathering, schmoozes and then distributes ballots.
Can the facilities share with all candidates when these opportunities will occure and isn’t it a little un democratic for canvassers to hand out and collect absentee ballots?
Unless the law has changed regarding this, as someone who did this a few decades ago, candidates or their proxies cannot issue absentee ballots to individuals. What they can do is provide applications for absentee ballots to prospective voters. Those ballots are then mailed to the prospective voter(s) and should be completed by the voter himself and then mailed to the Town Clerk’s office. In rare instances were a voter is hospitalized or ill at home they request that the ballot be delivered to them personally. This could be done by a sheriff or police officer. If candidates or their proxies are filling out applications or the actual ballot they are committing a crime. I must say watching this entire race has proved very interesting.
Canvassers DO NOT hand out absentee ballots. They can hand out applications for absentee ballots. They can take the applications to the CityTown clerk office. It is that office which then distributes, primarily via mail, the actual ballots to the voter to fill out and return to that office via mail or courier such as police officer. The canvassers do not handle the ballots at all.
Thanks for the info. People have told me otherwise . I have more faith in the process.
I get the rationale for the Harp campaign’s whining. If your operational concept is to run on name recognition and endorsements, obliging voters to be well informed is totally counter-productive.
It is a pitty that Sen. Harp could not/would not run on workable solutions, frank answers, and regorous debate. It would have been so much better for our city.
Turns out I was closer to right about this after all. Instead of a straightforward slate to support, the town committee now has a confusing hodge podge that many an average voter will have difficulty navigating. Much more challenging to promote and it will make a difference come vote pulling time. May not change the outcome, but its going to eat up resources.
@HhE —“It is a pitty that Sen. Harp could not/would not run on workable solutions, frank answers, and regorous debate. It would have been so much better for our city.”
You must be kidding! From day 1, Sen Harp has fought to keep this campaign on the substantive issues level, because she clearly has the experience and gravitas to excel over her rivals’ lack of political accomplishments. She has released, from very early in her campaign, Position Papers on:
But instead of talking issues, her opponents (the Principal, the Alderman, and the Consultant) have singularly focused on her dead husband, her home in Westville, her husband’s investment property in Bethany, whether she looked “tired” in a debate, etc., etc., etc. Unfortunately, her rivals’ idea of “rigorous debate” includes all 3 candidates taking turns yelling insults and name calling at her every chance they get while on stage in front of live audiences.
I don’t call that whining. But then, that’s just me.