Conn. high court sides with GOP on ballot dispute
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court sided with state Republicans on Wednesday, agreeing their candidates, including Mitt Romney for president and Linda McMahon for the U.S. Senate, should appear on the top lines of the November ballot.
In a unanimous decision, the justices agreed that state law requires the GOP candidates to have top billing, but they did not offer any details surrounding their decision. A full written opinion was not released Wednesday.
‘‘We thought that the Republican Party, based on the statute, was required to be on the first line of the ballot,’’ said Proloy K. Das, an attorney for the state Republican Party. ‘‘We’re glad that we came out on top.’’
State Republicans took Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, to court this summer after she denied a request from party leaders to change the order of this year’s ballot. The Republicans argued that state law requires the order to be dictated by the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election and that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was only able to win that year with the votes he received as a Working Families Party candidate.
Tom Foley received 560,874 votes while Malloy won 540,970 as a Democrat and 26,308 as a cross-endorsed Working Families Party candidate.
‘‘I regret that it was necessary to file a legal action in response to the Secretary of the 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,’’ Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement.
Merrill said she was surprised by the ruling and remains confident her office ‘‘interpreted the statute in good faith and with due diligence.’’ But Merrill said she respects the court’s final decision and the Republican Party will now appear on the top line.
‘‘I am pleased that the decision comes in time for absentee ballots and Election Day ballots to be accurately formatted, printed and mailed to absentee voters and the towns across the state,’’ she said, adding that it now appears absentee ballots should be available for distribution by city and town clerks by an Oct. 5 deadline.
‘‘We can now get on with the important business of administering an election that is vitally important to our nation and state,’’ she said.
Merrill had previously called the lawsuit a ‘‘regrettable distraction’’ and a ‘‘waste of valuable resources and taxpayer money’’ because the law on the subject was well-established. Her office argued that the Working Families Party did not have minor party status in 2010, so the top line should go to Malloy’s party.
Since the state replaced its lever voting machines with optical scan machines, Merrill has argued that the importance of being on the top line of the ballot has been diminished because there is no longer a line of candidates from a certain party.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, praised the high court’s decision.
‘‘The law is the law,’’ he said. ‘‘The Supreme Court, we believe, arrived at the right decision based on what the statute says, not a public official’s interpretation. Our legal team did a great job.’’