Candidate Cries Foul At Clerk’s Office

Thomas MacMIllan PhotoAfter a three-hour stand-off and the intercession of the city’s top lawyer, the city clerk’s office allowed a Republican state Senate campaign to take out 1,000 absentee ballot applications.

The stand-off began shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday when a staffer for the Steven R. Mullins’ campaign for the 10th State Senate District seat came into the clerk’s office asking for 1,000 absentee ballot applications. Mullins faces Democrat Gary Holder-WInfield in a Feb. 25 special election for the seat recently vacated by Mayor Toni Harp; the heavily Democratic district covers about half of New Haven as well as a slice of West Haven.

Mullins’ request for the ballot applications was at first denied. Smart said later that the office had never received a request for so many applications and wanted to handle it properly.

The campaign staffer (at right in photo; he declined to identify himself) refused to leave without 1,000 applications, saying that the law was on his side. It took three hours and a consultation with city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden (at left in photo) before the clerk’s office handed over the applications.

That was long enough for Mullins (pictured), a Republican, to cry “corruption.” He said the office was conspiring to prevent him from prevailing in the election.

The incident was the latest in several controversies that have cropped around Michael Smart since even before took the city clerk job. Shortly after he assumed the post, he issued an illegal memo preventing his staff from handing out documents. He also issued a gag order to prevent them from talking to the press. Smart’s campaign for the city clerk spot is the subject of an ongoing state investigation into allegations of absentee-ballot fraud.

Campaigns can pick up absentee ballot applications during an election and distribute them to potential voters, who can fill them out to receive an absentee ballot in the mail.

The clerk’s office denied two Mullins campaign requests for 1,000 ballot applications. The first time, on Friday, a member of the campaign asked for 1,000, was offered 25, and left. The second time, Tuesday, a different staffer made the request, this time armed with a copy of a state law that he said compels the clerk to hand them over. The staffer declined to give his name.

The law is silent on just how many applications can be requested or handed out.

Armed with law books, attorney Bolden arrived at the clerk’s office at about 3 p.m.

The Mullins staffer told Bolden that a request for 1,000 applications is routine in other towns. “We do this all the time for elections,” he said.

“We’ll figure it out, one way or another,” Bolden promised.

“I want to leave here with 1,000,” the Mullins staffer said.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Bolden said. He said he was still trying to reach the secretary of the state’s office for clarification on the statute.

After a huddle with Smart, Bolden offered 100 applications. “We don’t have 1,000,” Bolden said.

You don’t need 1,000 hard copies, the Mullins staffer said. “We’ll print them off.” All he needed was the numbers to put on them, he said. All absentee ballot applications have a unique number.

Bolden said the statute is simply unclear on what the procedure is. “I’m not trying to stonewall you,” he said. “I’m not trying to deny anyone anything. I just want to hear from the secretary of state’s office.”

Bolden returned to Smart’s personal office.

Meanwhile, former City Hall staffer Matt Smith came in and picked up 25 absentee ballot applications. Smith is the treasurer for Abby Roth’s campaign for the open Ward 7 alder seat.

At about 3:45 p.m. Bolden, emerged and told the Mullins staffer that he could have a blank application to photocopy and a set of 1,000 numbers—48,400 to 49,399—to use on them.

“I just wanted to figure out what the procedure was,” Bolden said. The office had never handled a request so large before, and didn’t have 1,000 applications on hand, he said.

“We had a question about the number of applications,” Smart (pictured) said.

“We reached out to the secretary of the state” for “clarity” about the process for handing out that many, Smart said.

“It shouldn’t have taken him three hours,” said Mullins. “It took us about five minutes in West Haven. I would think that the New Haven city clerk’s office was just as advanced.” Mullins said his campaign got 750 ballot applications from the West Haven clerk’s office, instantly.

“This only proves the level of corruption they’re going to put out there to make sure that we do not have a fighting chance,” Mullins said. “We’re watching them. It’s just corruption, corruption, corruption no matter who’s there.”

Mullins said the incident just shows the need for a “watchdog” like himself.

Asked why he needs so many absentee ballot applications, Mullins said it’s because of the “crazy weather.”

In a winter election, “we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. People may have trouble getting to the polls in a blizzard. “We want to be prepared. We want to give everyone the opportunity to vote and get out to the polls.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 5, 2014  10:09am

This is another reason why one should have proof that you need a absentee ballot.People wake up.It is now time to fight to reform this crooked election system.

We can fix the system right now.

1.Ended the 2-Party System

2.Term Limits

3.Recall Election

4.Proportional Representation.

5.IRV voting.

In fact Port Chester will use Cumulative Voting.

posted by: FacChec on February 5, 2014  10:23am

I do not understand why the New Haven clerk’s office cannot simply refer on-line to the CT. Secretary of state office, where the information on absentee ballot distribution is readily available. Any clerk office may distribute (5) or more Absentee ballots to any person who registers for them.

It took me three minutes to find the information, not three hours..

Wait..What ..why didn’t you just ask Sally Brown?

posted by: Another comment on February 5, 2014  11:08am

The staffer was there for Absentee Ballot APPLICATIONS not the ballots themselves so the limit is not 5 (five).

posted by: Mike Slattery on February 5, 2014  11:10am

Nice way to set expectations for your donors, just cry foul before the vote.  The form is linked from the New Haven city website.  The form does not state that a serial number should be applied for in advance.

So can’t one print as many as they need and let the office assign serial/envelope numbers as they process?

It would have been nice had the Clerk been able to answer authoritatively, but it’s the absence of corruption that gets you the best part of an honest Corp Counsel’s day to help get it right.

Corruption is an unfortunate word to throw around when you state in the media that you are asking 1000 people to swear a claim of illness or physical hardship based on a weather forecast.  ‘Crazy weather’ isn’t a checkbox on the form.

(I would like the law to allow for no-hardship vote-by-mail, but that’s not the issue here.)

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 5, 2014  11:23am

S mart’s caginess aside…you’re taking out 1,000 absentee ballots? That sounds…peculiar.  Get ready to see a marked increase in absentee voting among elderly and students

posted by: grounded on February 5, 2014  11:29am

Is “anticipating winter weather” a valid reason for someone to use an absentee ballot?  I’m all for no excuse absentee ballots as a way to facilitate voting but, under the current rules, does Mullins’ strategy work?

posted by: FacChec on February 5, 2014  11:57am

@Another comment on February 5, 2014 10:08am

A/N, you apparently did not read my link(above):FacChec on February 5, 2014 9:23am

Clearly, the Public Act 05-235 - An Act Concerning Absentee Voting, Elections Enforcement,  reads as follows:

II) Absentee Ballot Application Limitations and Application Process by Town
Sections 2 and 3 of Public Act 05-235 require an individual who will be distributing five
(5) or more absentee ballot applications to persons other than their “immediate family”,
to register with the town clerk. In addition, such individual must file with the town clerk
a list of the people to whom he has distributed the applications.

No individual is allowed to distribute more than five (5) absentee ballot applications
without first registering with and receiving the applications from the town clerk of the
municipality in which the absentee ballot applications will be distributed. (For Example:
If an individual wants to distribute 10 absentee ballot applications in Town A and 10
absentee ballot applications in Town B, the individual would have to register with and
receive 10 absentee ballot applications from the town clerks in both Town A and Town.

You got it twisted dud.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on February 5, 2014  12:06pm

I’m really surprised by NHI’s continual bashing of Smart. He calls in the Corp. Counsel to ensure the legality and propriety of handing over 1000 absentee ballots and that’s a newsworthy controversy? And then you work this non-controversy into your narrative about Smart.  I think it’s really unfair coverage by an otherwise great paper.

posted by: robn on February 5, 2014  12:28pm

Smart just doesn’t get it. The City Clerk doesn’t have the authority to question why people want something. He’s just there to provide it ( it doesn’t matter if its 1, 1000 or a million documents). When is the BOA going to listen to their constituents and eliminate this ridiculous waste of a position?

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 5, 2014  5:15pm

If the rules allow for a registered person to receive 1,000 or even 1 million absentee ballots, why the need/desire to QUESTION the person making the request?

Why is it “peculiar” for someone to do that which is within the boundaries of the law?  Do we question people who buy trunkloads of Alcohol as long as they are of legal age?  Do we question people who buy rounds and rounds and rounds of bullets, as long as they can legally do so? 

This was not simply a question of whether the request was legally appropriate, but a questioning of why said request was being made in the first place. 

New Haven all too often operates like some sort of Police State where people elected to office feel as if they have the power to deny peoples’ rights just because they want to.  But, after a generation of municipal governement centered around a culture of intimidation, it’s hard not to expect this kind of “thinking”. 

Based on what the citizens of this city have come to expect and accept, I have little doubt that a citizen of New Haven would have accepted the denial of this legitimate request.  As “the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Ezekiel 18:2b

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 5, 2014  6:31pm

You can’t help but to be impressed with Mr. Mullings. 

The idea that the Democratic party would allow Mr. Holder to just walk into a State Sen. seat without any competition is horrible. 

I came up in an era in which every position was politically challenged.  We challenged seats from the State Sen. all the way down to the co-chairs. 

There is this political mindset that these positions are owned by the current occupants.  In fact, some people even get angry with individuals who challenge them for the seat they occupy.  These seats are owned by the people, not by the person. 

Accountability is always good.

I would love to see Mr. Mullings do well in this race against Mr. Holder. 

I implore Mr. Mullings to go to Newhallville and make the case that the Democratic Party in New Haven has only taken advantage a of the area for years.  The approach towards addressing the social, health, financial, educational, recreational, employment and to a lesser extent the political needs in the area, have left the people hoodwinked over the years into believing that a vote for the person soliciting, would address the aforementioned concerns.  It’s time for these communities to wake up and send a message to these pretenders.

If Tom Foley genuinely invests’ in the black neighborhoods and hold onto the support he had in his last race, he’ll be the next governor of the State of Connecticut.  To concede this vote, he’ll find himself in the same position he’s in today.

These black neighborhoods are hemorrhaging and tired of the same old lies.

So if Mr. Mullings can convince voters to look at his message and not his party, he’ll do extremely well.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 5, 2014  7:09pm

You are right Mr. Jenkins about how Democrats have taken the African-American community for granted for DECADES now.  But, your concluding sentence is problematic because Mr. Mullings is inextricably attached to his party, and they have done no better. 

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.  So, you can’t say vote for my party because we both disagree with the other party.  Your party has to offer something that is specifically beneficial to/for me.  The Republican party has not simply failed to do that for the African-American community; they have been down-right hostle to the idea. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: getyourfactstraight on February 5, 2014  7:28pm

Wow! Michael Smart has a lot of nerve considering what charges he is facing. I suppose he is trying to walk on the safe side these days/NOT!
I am so proud I voted for you/NOT!

posted by: getyourfactstraight on February 5, 2014  7:32pm

FacChec I agree. Didn’t Smart say he wanted to bring the clerk’s office into the 21 century or something to that affect?
He wouldn’t ask Sally Brown because I believe he is intimidated by her knowledge and ofcourse why would he try to communicate with her as she stayed silent on his and Harps election. Tsk tsk.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on February 5, 2014  9:23pm

grounded says: “under the current rules, does Mullins’ strategy work?” It’s been working for Democrats for decades.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 5, 2014  10:15pm

@ Mr. Ross,

I’ve never met the gentleman, but I’m pretty sure he’s aware of the fact that his district is 90% blue.  Which translates into him serving one term should he lose his mind and forget who put him there.

Of course this is likely to be a moot point unless this guy has the bankroll to flood the district with his message.

I agree with you regarding the vitriol that has systemically saturated the Republican Party.  However, Foley’s sounding as if he’s experienced an epiphany regarding the black vote, which I find to be most impressive on his part.  Should Foley win the election, we may very well find him to be a better friend to the city than what we currently have.

We know the entire Democratic Party in New Haven is going to make Malloy out be the white Obama to those who don’t know any better.  Has Gov. Malloy achieved some good things? Absolutely!  Unfortunately, the people in Newhallville and Dixwell won’t experience the trickle down affect. 

What say you?

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on February 6, 2014  12:55am

The article became confusing at times, as references to the absentee ballot applications were several times referred to as the ballots themselves. Educational to find out that it is standard procedure in the town of West Haven to dispense 1000 absentee ballots or ballot applications at one time. If that is true, it would explain the chronic corruption of the election process in that town, and would bring a clearer perspective to the difficulties in West Haven in the last Mayoral election with the absentee ballots, and the use of those ballots to illegally allow some residents to vote twice.

That being the case, I would not be the slightest bit upset by the town clerks slowing down this process, when it involves a group of people from the Democratic party in West Haven, who feel diligent adherence to election law is below them. In addition to that, Michael Smart taking his time, and actually bringing Counselor Bolden into the process, was nothing short of astute and prudent. Let us not forget that the Independent has been on it’s own campaign to use it’s circulation to distribute articles based on innuendo, exaggeration, and misrepresentation, to undermine Smart, and to try and destroy his reputation and credibility.

Hey, if you really want to scrutinize someone, and actually come up with something that is enlightening about political corruption, and a blessing to an abused public in West Haven, examine this guy Mullins and his relationship with the Democratic town chair in WH.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 6, 2014  7:12am

@Brian L. Jenkins.Steve Mullins is not new.He ran against you good friend Toni Harp in 1996.

Toni Harp

The final race which will be decided in New Haven on Nov. 5 is the contest for the 10th Senate district, which includes the entire Yale campus. Toni Harp (D) is seeking a third term in Hartford. A former alderwoman, Harp lives on Lynwood Avenue and has been a tireless worker for the poor. She supports aid to children and education reform, and she has worked hard to make Connecticut residents aware of the problems facing the inner cities and the need to resolve them. Opposing her is Steven Mullins, a resident of West Haven, Conn.. Mr. Mullins was unavailable for comment on his past record or his positions on anyi ssues in the election.

Read the rest here.

Also the same Democratic party machine that you worked for to help Toni Harp become mayor
is the same machine that is working to help Gary Holder-WInfield.Also Harp will being supporting Dan Malloy. Your point.

Unfortunately, the people in Newhallville and Dixwell won’t experience the trickle down affect.

They will not experience the trickle down affect under Harp.Like I said we can fix the system right now.

1.Ended the 2-Party System

2.Term Limits

3.Recall Election

4.Proportional Representation.

5.IRV voting.

In fact Port Chester will use Cumulative Voting.

posted by: robn on February 6, 2014  10:00am


Sorry but you’re 100% wrong and criticism of Mike is 100% right. The statutory power of the City Clerk is to record, store and provide information when needed by officials or citizens. The City Clerk has no statutory authority to pass judgment on someone, speculating about what they might do with the information they’re requesting. And as FAC has pointed out, it doesn’t take three hours to look up state law on the subject.

The fact that it took 3 hours to resolve this means that the City Clerk views his role as obstructionist and this is completely unacceptable.

BTW, If Mullins was going to commit ballot fraud as some commenters have suggested, is it likely he’d draw attention to himself personally by marching right into the City Clerks office and requesting 1000 ballots? (instead of sending in co-conspirators to request them in small batches.)

PS You can look up City Clerk’s job description in the ordinances if you want. Title III, Chapter 2, Division 2. Sec. 2-82. City Clerk, official duties.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 6, 2014  10:21am

Mr/Ms. JustAnotherTaxPayer wrote:

“Educational to find out that it is standard procedure in the town of West
Haven to dispense 1000 absentee ballots or ballot applications at one time.  If that is true, it would explain the chronic corruption of the election process in that town, and would bring a clearer…”

So, the reason that the requested ballots were distributed here in New Haven is because the City’s attorney checked the STATE law and found that such distribution is not only appropriate but required unpon request.

If it’s “educational” to discover that West Haven officials have been following the law all of this time in this matter, what does that say about New Haven’s role in all of this?

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 6, 2014  1:57pm


First of all, I have never worked for the “Democratic party Machine.”  I worked for Toni Harp, a then close friend.

Though I’m a proud conservative Democrat, I have always been an independent thinker.  Being an independent thinker has cost my family and me a lot.  Of course I always knew what to do in order to play the game, but unlike others, my character wouldn’t allow me to kneel before the throne of the Destefano regime.

Yale Daily News April 24, 2003. “His refusal to play by the rules of New Haven’s restrictive Democratic machine is often admirable. His against-the-odds victory over Bruce McClenning in 2001, his support for Sally Brown in her bid to unseat Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susie Voigt, and his numerous one-man-stands before his colleagues all certainly point to an underlying sincerity.”

When I ran for Alderman I used my own money, compiled my own literature from talking to the people in the ward, collected my own signatures, did my own palm carding, circulated my own AB applications, knocked on approximately 87% of all doors in the ward, did my own phone banking and subsequently ran against a “machine” backed candidate and prevailed.

I’m certainly not trying to toot my own horn, but what I am doing is trying to illustrate to people who wish to run for office the importance of being your own person and being beholding to the voters who put you in office only.

Threefifths, If the “machine” promoted honesty, fairness and transparency, then you would be correct in accusing me of working for it.  But it doesn’t and never has.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 6, 2014  4:00pm

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 6, 2014 12:57pm


First of all, I have never worked for the “Democratic party Machine.”  I worked for Toni Harp, a then close friend.

And Who help Toni Harp and who did she get the money to run for mayor?She got it from the machine.By helping her you were helping the machine.You see me I am not affiliated to any political party due to the fact that under the present election system which is control by the two major parties,the major of people have no voice.

Threefifths, If the “machine” promoted honesty, fairness and transparency, then you would be correct in accusing me of working for it. But it doesn’t and never has.

But if you work for some one who is own by the machine.Then you to become a part of that machine.