McMahon Seeks Emergency Order Vs. City

Paul Bass PhotoRepublican Linda McMahon brought her Senate campaign into deep Democratic country Thursday—opening a downtown New Haven office and moving to haul city officials into state court over alleged ballot problems.

City Hall’s top lawyer swung back, accusing McMahon’s campaign of concocting a bogus legal complaint and gumming up the works in the final, storm-wracked days of preparing for next Tuesday’s election.

City officials Thursday afternoon scrambled to respond to a letter from a McMahon lawyer, and to respond to the campaign’s allegations before Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina in state court in Hartford at 11 a.m. Friday.

At day’s end, the city and the campaign agreed to a postponement of the hearing until 2 p.m. Friday. Meanwhile, the campaign’s lawyer is coming to New Haven to meet with city officials to see if they can settle the issue among themselves. [Update Friday 11:30 a.m.: The meeting led McMahon’s lawyer to conclude that there was no reason to pursue the case further. Read about that here.)

In its request for an emergency order, the campaign asked Robaina to order New Haven to:

• “certify that it has ordered enough ballots for each precinct for the coming election.”
• otherwise “institute security and counting measures in the event that unscannable, photocopied ballots are used.”
• “purge the voter file of individuals that are not eligible to vote in the city.”

The action caused a stir in the city that has come to provide Democrats the biggest vote pluralities in statewide elections. Democrat Chris Murphy is believed to need a big turnout in New Haven this year to defeat McMahon.

The latest legal action stems from a McMahon complaint that New Haven failed to respond to a certified letter sent to the city on Monday seeking clarifications on voting procedures. The letter demanded a response by close of business Tuesday.

That steamed City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden. Bolden called the McMahon campaign’s actions a “waste of time” that comes at the expense of preparing for a smooth election.

Bolden noted that the McMahon campaign letter—written by attorney Herbert J. Shepardson of the Hartford firm Cooney, Scully and Dowling—was sent at the height of Superstorm Sandy, when government was shut down and all officials (including Bolden) were working extra shifts trying to keep people safe. He noted that he didn’t even receive the letter until Wednesday. He further said that the issues raised were canards, that the city has printed more than the required number of ballots for the election.

“Do you send a letter on the day of Hurricane Sandy? That says it all,” remarked Bolden as he huddled with mayoral Chief of Staff Sean Matteson and city voting registrars Sharon Ferrucci and Rae Tramantano in Tramantano’s office Thursday afternoon.

“Municipalities are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and you’ve got people who want to play games. It’s just to draw attention. Now I’ve got to take [Rae] Tramantano to Hartford when we’ve lost two days because of the storm, because of political games.”

McMahon spokesman Todd Abrajano denied that accusation. Rather, he said the campaign has identified a serious concern about the city’s ability to conduct the election properly.

The McMahon campaign wants to ensure that New Haven has enough ballots for everyone who wants to vote, attorney Shepardson claimed in his Monday letter to the city.

“[I]t is not only important that people be able to vote, but also that there be an accurate and fair counting process in place which is integral to an open democracy,” Shepardson wrote.

The campaign asked all major cities to provide full certification, as required by law, that they have enough ballots on hand for Election Day, Abrajano said. He said he didn’t have a list of which specific municipalities the compaign contacted, but said the list included Hartford, Bridgeport and Waterbury.

“New Haven was the only municipality that failed to” prove it’s ready for the election, Abrajano said. “Even Bridgeport has their act together this time.”

He was referring to problems faced in 2010 when Bridgeport ran out of ballots, and it took days to complete a controversial hand-count there that raised many eyebrows. Click here, here and here to read Thomas MacMillan’s coverage of that fiasco.

New Haven’s top Republican elections official, Registrar Tramantano (pictured), took offense at any comparison to vote-counting in New Haven and in Bridgeport.

“We have no history of never having enough ballots,” Tramantano said.

Shepardson’s letter to the city began by noting that the city’s “certification of ballot ordering” filed with the state “raised some concerns”:

• Number one: It lacked a required signature.

• It showed the city ordering only 150 ballots for the Third Ward polling place in the Hill, Career High School. Yet 804 people voted there in 2008, and the ward has over 1,400 registered voters.

• The info for one polling place, in the 11th Ward, “provides no historical or contemporaneous information upon which to judge whether enough ballots have been ordered.”

In an interview and in a response letter drafted Thursday afternoon, Bolden said the city has in fact ordered 1,500 ballots for the Career High spot. The 150 notation was a typo, he said.

And he said the city had a good reason for not making historical comparisons for the 11th Ward spot in question—because it’s a new spot.

The main point, he and Tramantano said, is that the city has ordered well more ballots than can possibly be used: 110 percent of the number of registered voters. It ordered 75,200 ballots. The city has 70,558 registered voters.

Click here to read the response letter Bolden sent Shepardson late Thursday.

The Urban Stronghold

Thursday’s actions occurred against the backdrop of vote-pulling math: Democrats can’t win statewide office without winning big in New Haven, which has the largest local party and an energized labor-led vote-pulling operation. From the start of this campaign, Democrat Murphy’s campaign has made a priority of trying to excite that base this year in order to approximate Dan Malloy’s 18,613-vote New Haven margin in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Republicans have basically stopped running for office for here—for mayor, for alderman, for state legislator.

And yet—the Linda McMahon’s campaign has just opened to a U.S. Senate campaign office in downtown New Haven—for Republican candidate Linda McMahon.

Job-seekers, all African-American, shuttled in and out of McMahon’s new city headquarters Thursday morning on State Street between Elm and Wall.

Word got out that jobs were to be had—for some, working the polls on election day Tuesday, for others, canvassing neighborhoods.

McMahon’s office-opening and similar efforts in Hartford and Bridgeport signal that rather than ceding the cities, she plans at least to work at keeping down Murphy’s margin of victory in his urban strongholds. She has also released an ad targeted at black voters suggesting they split their ticket between her and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

“We’ll have dozens and dozens of people out this weekend going door to door for Linda McMahon in New Haven,” campaign manager Corry Bliss said Thursday. “Linda McMahon is not a typical candidate.”

Murphy’s New Haven headquarters, which doubles as the state Democratic Party slate’s city HQ, is on Whalley Avenue near the corner of Sperry Street.

Paul Bass PhotoCasandra Lowery (pictured) was among those filling out paperwork Thursday morning to work for Linda McMahon on election day.  She was asked what prompted her to sign up with McMahon.

“I’ll be real with you,” responded Lowery, who in past elections has worked for former Democratic Alderman Greg Morehead in the Dixwell neighborhood. “Because of the money.”

Another canvasser (at left in photo) about to start distributing McMahon flyers around town said she does support McMahon—“because I’m a woman!”

Office manager Luisa Guerra said the McMahon troops have been canvassing New Haven “for some time” before opening the office.

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posted by: AyJoe on November 1, 2012  8:24pm

Linda McMahon is just desperate.  I could beat Chris Murphy with $50 million in my back pocket.  Sadly we have two unaccomplished, not so great, unproven candidates.

Congrats Chris Murphy!  You win by default.  There is no way you can be as evil as Ms. Linda.

posted by: lrnoff on November 1, 2012  8:59pm

Please, please people of New Haven-do not let Linda McMahon buy her way into the senate! She has been able to run a campaign with unlimited funds. Chris Murphy is the better person and would be the better senator for our state. You need to think very carefully before you vote. Her only asset is her fortune, and she made it by exploiting men and women in a fake sport.

posted by: SaveOurCity on November 1, 2012  9:38pm

Wow - you ask the city and the democrat party to certify that the election will be clean and quite a dust up is created. 

I worked the downtown polling location in 2008…..believe me, you would be shocked at how lax the supervisors were in making sure IDs were valid and one person equaled one vote.  If McMahon is successful in creating a clean election in the city of New Haven, she will likely gain hundreds, if not thousands of net votes.

It doesn’t seem so ridiculous to ask that an election be run according to the law.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 1, 2012  11:03pm

How cool that Team Linda is worried whether a Democratic stronghold like New Haven will have enough ballots for its Murphy vote!

posted by: WoosterStreetNeighbor on November 2, 2012  12:44am

As a poll worker, I’m SURE you know, SaveOurCity, that anything with a person’s name and address OR name and signature, OR name and photo on it works as a “valid” ID when voting in Connecticut. Utility bill, pay stub, car registration, doesn’t matter, all valid. And I’m also sure you know that, technically, one only needs to show that ID the FIRST time one votes in a federal election in a polling place. One can sign an affidavit affirming your identity and still vote without ID as long as one has shown it in the past. I’m SURE you know these things, and that you’re simply not making things up to create the false impression that New Haven does not run it elections correctly. Surely you wouldn’t do that.

posted by: FromTheHill on November 2, 2012  8:32am

Just shows you McMhon didn’t become rich and successful being nice.  Seems to me she desperatly claws her way to get what she wants.  What SHE wants, not what the people of CT want.  Also I have worked at the polls in the hill for many years (95 percent democratic) and we were told before we started to always asked for ID and make sure the addrress on the ID was the same as the address on the voters list.  This was always taken very serious in my ward.

posted by: lrnoff on November 2, 2012  8:47am

If the McMahon people were legitimately worried about election day rules in New Haven, they would have asked for whatever paperwork they felt they needed weeks ago. 8 days before the election, while the whole state is recovering from a storm, is not the appropriate time if you are truly only looking to verify that all will be done according to the law.
Seems pretty transparent to me. Don’t let them fool you.

posted by: SaveOurCity on November 2, 2012  8:59am

FromTheHill:  I’m glad to hear that your district runs an honest and fair poll.  That is critical to a functioning Democracy

dmarie:  Yes, your assumptions are correct.  All of us who worked the polls that day were briefed on the rules and what constituted valid identification at 5:45 that morning.  We were told to bring any ‘issues’ to management.  That’s why it was so disturbing that when a bus full of folks, NONE of whom could produce valid ID, arrived late in the day and were told they could vote because ‘we know them’.  This was then followed by a major effort to match those folks with names of registered voters who had not shown up that day.  Sounds like I should have worked in The Hill that day.

posted by: PH on November 2, 2012  10:23am

McMahon is a scoundrel.  When she can’t buy her seat, she tries to cheat her way in.  Under what premise should the Corporate Counsel even be responding to a letter from McMahon’s attorney?  Who cares if it is “certified”—that means nothing.  If McMahon wants to make complaints, she can do it after the election when she is sitting at home having been handed a second straight loss at the expense of $100 million wasted (money that could have been spent to assist our state, not pepper it with repetitive untruthful ads).  Americans who believe in democracy will not be cowed by this woman’s shameless attempts to undermine our voting process through financial and legal shenanigans.  Let McMahon show her bona fides by running for dogcatcher before she tries to buy a US Senate seat. I bet she’d lose, even if she bought every dog a bone.

posted by: FromTheHill on November 2, 2012  11:16am

SaveOurCity, wow!  I grew up in the ward I worked in so most of the people voting I knew and I still had to ask for ID even my family members showed me ID it was a little uncomfortable but The moderator went strickly by the rules and still dose.

posted by: DavidK on November 2, 2012  11:33am

I’ve watched all the political commercials and conclude that Murphy wants to tar McMahon to the republican party and claims the republicans will destroy social security and medicare. What bull. If he’s elected he will reach a bipartisan hand across the aisle in congress and get the back of a republicans hand. Linda will follow the bipartisan traditions of Lieberman when elected.

posted by: Real New Haven on November 2, 2012  5:37pm

I am stunned by the number of McMahon flyers I have received in the mail, and how dishonest they are. I am SICK of it.

She seems to have unlimited funds—including to pay people to ring my doorbell (SICK of that too) and to write comments on the NHI site.

Let’s get this straight, since she doesn’t mention it on her flyers: Linda McMahon is the Republican candidate. (How could she fail to mention that?)  She does NOT support an Obama presidency. 

And, judging by her own campaign literature, I conclude that she is:
(1) no friend to women
(2) no friend to the working or middle class
(3) power hungry, and willing to do anything to buy a Senate seat.

posted by: streever on November 2, 2012  6:07pm

SaveOurCity, et all:
I appreciate your attempt to do your duty at the polls. Unfortunately, you’ve misunderstood the rules or been misinformed.

This is the Secretary of the State document, and all you need to have to know who needs to show ID.

Apologies for the all caps, but I need this to be clear:


EVERYONE ELSE on the list does not need to show ID, and if you must show ID but do not have it, you simply submit a “provisional ballot”, which you, SaveOurCity, submit to the Registrar of Voters. YOU do not need to verify anything. It is the job of the Registrar of Voters to ensure that the person was legitimate at that point.

The only study to date to show that voter fraud by way of misrepresentation is a large issue has since revised their findings, from 54,000 fraudulent votes, to 1, which they admit may have been a legitimate vote. (It turned out that the vote was cast by a real person, who only voted once, although ballot officials incorrectly identified a dead man with a similar name.)

This is a nonsense argument, centered around a hoax, being perpetuated by one member of the Republican party (Hans von Spakovsky, who was unable to name a single person who had been the victim of stolen identity in voting when asked by a reporter).

While voting irregularities and fraud happen routinely (ballot stuffing), elections are simply not won on a few individuals impersonating others. It would be discovered and found out when the same person voted 3 or 4 times.

Hans von Spakovsky found 1 example when given time: one of whom has an identical name to his son (who had earlier voted that day, so he was barred, until they resolved the situation). That leaves him with exactly 0 cases of someone impersonating someone else to vote.

The whole thing is silly.

posted by: SaveOurCity on November 2, 2012  10:45pm

apparently, I must stand corrected.  The fact that the law does not require a person to legally identify themselves obviously translates to the fact that there has never been a fraudulent vote cast in the city of New Haven (despite what many people have personally seen and experienced).  I obviously do not understand the sparking clean city that has been created by our one party system (cleaner than Moscow, some would say).

posted by: HhE on November 3, 2012  9:51am

Thank you streever.

It seams to me that this was just some stunt, and a kick in the teeth to a city that does not have enough money to do the things it needs to do.  One more reason to vote against her—as if I needed another.

posted by: HillVilleAnnex on November 4, 2012  9:26am

Former Governor Lowell Weicker said on NPR recently that, “CT is a microcosm of the U.S.”

I see CT becoming more of an “Independent” state and by that I mean more people are starting to think for themselves as opposed to casting their vote based strictly on party affiliation.  I tend to lean more towards a progressive point of view.  My conscience convicts me to vote for a candidate that I can reasonably believe is a trustworthy person and has a credible plan to help all CT residents, especially the poor.  Those of us that are not poor have been blessed with gifts that have enabled us to overcome life’s economic challenges for ourselves.

I don’t believe that Linda McMahon is the candidate that I can support in this race.  I have historically voted for both democrats and republicans.  I could list all of the things that lead me to this conclusion but I didn’t think that voter suppression would’ve been on my list until now.

Linda, if you’re really serious about CT politics, I suggest you run for local or state office and build a reputation as serious political leader.  Deep pockets aren’t enough to make you believable enough that I should trust you when so much is at stake.

posted by: WoosterStreetNeighbor on November 4, 2012  2:31pm

Just got a phone call. A young woman, clearly reading off a script in a VERY noisy room, asked me if Linda McMahon could count on my vote on Tuesday. I guffawed, and exclaimed “Not if she were the last candidate on earth!” The woman laughed, and I asked if she was getting a lot of that. “Oh, yeah,” she said. I asked her if at least Linda was paying her well, to which the woman replied “it’s a job.” That’s some great support Linda has there. And a MONUMENTAL waste of money if her list wasn’t parsed enough to have eliminated ME and my bleeding heart liberal New Haven Democrat voting habits. Is she just calling the Connecticut phone book? Wouldn’t be surprised if she was.