You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

CT Supreme Court affirms lower court ruling in West Haven 2021 mayoral race vote count dispute

Hartford Courant logoHartford Courant 10/4/2022 Staff, Hartford Courant

The Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday released a notice of its ruling that the Republican running for mayor in West Haven last year “failed to satisfy his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the results of the mayoral election were seriously in doubt.”

Republican mayoral candidate Barry Lee Cohen had received 4,243 votes, to incumbent Mayor Nancy Rossi’s 4,275 votes in the Nov. 2, 2021 election and Cohen sued on Nov. 15, 2021, challenging the results of the mayoral election.

An automatic recanvas had taken place on Nov. 7, 2021, due to the closeness of the race, according to the high court ruling.

The defendants in the case were Rossi; Patricia C. Horvath, city clerk of West Haven; Jo Ann Callegari, city Republican registrar of voters; Sherri Lepper, city Democratic registrar of voters; George M. Chambrelli IV, head moderator of the election; and Catherine Conniff, head absentee ballot moderator of the election, the ruling said.

The plaintiff, Cohen, asserted that “West Haven election officials failed to adequately comply with various statutory requirements regarding absentee ballots” and asked the trial court to issue a writ of mandamus either to set aside the results of the mayoral election or to hold a special election.

The state Supreme Court document said the trial court held a hearing over the course of five months with presentation of evidence done in six days. After Cohen’s team rested its case, the defendants orally moved to dismiss it. The trial court issued a decision on Feb. 14, 2022, denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss and the defendants then presented evidence, the high court ruling said.

The high court ruling said the trial court had issued a decision on June 24 in which it concluded the West Haven election officials “had failed to strictly comply with certain statutory requirements pertaining to absentee ballots during the mayoral election” but that “the plaintiff had failed to establish that the results of the election were seriously in doubt” a ruling that meant the trial court denied Cohen’s requested relief.

The trial court then transmitted questions of law and a finding of facts to the chief justice in accordance with state statutes and the questions of law were “thereafter certified by this court.”

The high court ruling said that, on appeal, the plaintiff contended that “the trial court’s inclusion of the fourteen ’same day’ absentee ballots in the vote count created disparate treatment amongst similarly situated absentee ballots,” and that the “trial court erroneously concluded that the fourteen ‘same day’ ballots substantially complied” with Connecticut law in the “absence of any statutory compliance by the municipal clerk, that ’plain language’ Connecticut law ‘limits the retrieval of absentee ballots from the secure drop boxes to the municipal clerk,’ that the trial court “erred in concluding that the affidavit of delivery and receipt required by (law) is secondary to the municipal clerk’s endorsement, and the court erred in concluding that the “results of the election were not in serious doubt and that there was no mistake in the vote count,” among other issues.

The defendants disagreed “with each of the plaintiff’s claims and contend that the trial court properly denied the plaintiff’s requested relief because the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the results of the mayoral election were seriously in doubt,” the ruling said.

“After closely and thoroughly examining the briefs and appendices, and after careful consideration of the parties’ arguments, we conclude that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed,” the high court ruling said.

“Although we agree with the trial court that ‘the evidence presented show[ed] a concerning lack of overall compliance with statutory guidelines by [West Haven] election officials,’ we also agree with the trial court that the plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the results of the mayoral election were seriously in doubt.”

The trial court’s judgment is affirmed, the high court ruling said.

©2022 Hartford Courant. Visit courant.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Hartford Courant

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon