Fasano Says Entire Election Process Needs Reform [New Haven Register]

November 19, 2014

New Haven Register
Defeated 13th District state Senate candidate Len Suzio and Connecticut Republican leaders say it is unlikely they will to go to court to challenge the results of the Nov. 4 elections.

Suzio lost the election to Democratic incumbent Dante Bartolomeo by what was initially reported as 614 votes. But in the two weeks since then, the number of votes the candidates got in Cheshire has been amended several times, and the margin now has shrunk to 214 votes.

The district covers Meriden and Middlefield as well as part of Middletown and Cheshire.

Suzio said Wednesday that he and state Republican leaders will have a decision “within 24 to 48 hours” as to whether they will challenge the outcome of the race by seeking recount, either via a ruling from the state Election Enforcement Commission or by going before a state Superior Court judge.

“I’m reluctant to go before a judge because they typically don’t like to overturn the outcome of an election unless voter fraud can be proven,” Suzio said. “I can’t prove voter fraud, but I can tell you that I think a really sloppy job was done collecting the results.”

State Sen. Len Fasano agreed with Suzio’s assessment and said unless there is a last-minute change of heart, efforts will be focused on changing the latitude that the secretary of the state’s office has in calling for an audit.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill also is unhappy with Cheshire’s two voter registrars, her spokesman Av Harris said Wednesday.

“This is not the first time this has happened in Cheshire,” Harris said. “The law gives towns two weeks to make corrections to the totals and that happens in a number of towns. But for a shift of that size to occur raises the question how accurately the counts were taken.”

But Harris said state law mandates that the polling places which the secretary of the state’s office selects for auditing purposes must be selected at random and comprise 10 percent of the precincts where voting was done in an election. The races to be audited must be selected at random, as well, he said.

Bartolomeo said Wednesday night that she “always trusted the results.”
“It’s frustrating that the numbers kept changing, but this isn’t any different than the outcome of our first race (in 2012),” Bartolomeo said. “He had a tough time accepting the outcome then and threatened to go to court to challenge them. But just as I never stopped working during the campaign, I haven’t stopped working since then, getting ready for the next legislative session.”

Fasano said the entire election process needs to be overhauled.

“I was astounded to find out that under the current system, there may be three or four transcriptions by local voting officials of the numbers that come out of computerized voting machines before information is submitted to the secretary of state’s office,” he said.

Current plans call for more computerization of the voting tabulations by 2016, Fasano said, “so that it is only touched by one set of hands before being sent to secretary of state’s office.”

“I would also like to see the tapes that come out of the machines with the results copied and then faxed or emailed to the secretary of state’s office so they can be posted online for everyone to see,” he said.

Harris said Merrill is working diligently to bring full computerization to the process as soon as possible.

Susan Pappas, Cheshire’s Republican registrar, said she and her Democratic counterpart, Tom Smith, stand behind the latest election data. Problems with computer spreadsheets, caused in part by cross-endorsements of the two candidates by minor parties, along with the volume of same-day voter registration, led to confusion about the election data, Pappas said.

“We wanted to make sure we did it right and that’s why there were multiple adjustments of the results,” she said.

Fasano said current state statutes provide no ability to invoke sanctions against the Cheshire registrars. But he said what happened in Cheshire, along with problems with voting in Hartford, show that the time has come for rethinking how elections are run.

“I think we need to give the secretary of state broader powers to call for audits and I think we have to make those audits more thorough, because right now they’re nothing like the kind of scrutiny you’d get if you were audited by the IRS,” Fasano said. “I also think we need to examine how registrars should be chosen. Electing them may have worked when the country was first founded, but I think that what we’ve seen is that it’s not as effective now.”