NEW HAVEN, CT — A Superior Court judge will rule Tuesday on whether to order a recount over the hotly contested Nov. 7 East Haven mayoral election after two days of testimony.
Superior Court Judge Sheila Ozalis said she would issue a written opinion in the lawsuit filed by Democrat Salvatore Maltese, who lost the election to Republican Joseph Maturo by 105 votes, by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
In his lawsuit, Maltese said there were improprieties before and during the election by town officials, including Maturo.
Two hours of testimony and closing arguments on Monday followed seven hours of testimony on Friday in the case.
In his closing argument, Maltese’s attorney, Edward Marcus, who is the former state Democratic Party chairman, said there is nothing to be lost by having a recount.
“Mayor Maturo is responding in such a way that leads me to believe that a recount will change the result of the election,” Marcus said.
The primary claim in the complaint is the rejection of absentee ballots by Republican Town Clerk Stacy Gravino.
All voting machines, ballots, and absentee ballots cast in the election have been impounded until further notice from the court.
Maturo, the Republican incumbent, won the election by 105 votes, getting 3,648 votes to Maltese’s 3,543, a margin of slightly more than 1 percent of the vote. He is represented by Marcus Law. The lawsuit names the town of East Haven, Maturo, Gravino, Albert Fucci, Donna Norman, and the Secretary of the State’s office as defendants.
The battery of lawyers defending Maturo and the others in the case disputed Marcus’ claim that there would be nobody hurt by having a recount.
“There has been no evidence entered whatsoever that anyone was not allowed to vote,” Maturo’s personal lawyer, Lawrence C. Sgrignari, told the judge. “Additionally there has been no evidence entered that a recount would result in a different outcome in any way.”
The lawyers on Maturo’s side pointed out that there is state law on when a recount should be held: when the outcome is within half of 1 percent of the vote or when a discrepancy has been found in the voting.
To allow a candidate to ask for a recount just because the election was close, but not within the state law for a mandatory recount, would set a dangerous precedent that other losing candidates could follow, Maturo’s lawyers argued.
Maturo won by 1.4 percent of the vote.
And election night moderator Donna DeLeone, who is a Democrat like Maltese, testified she didn’t believe there were any discrepancies that warranted a recount.
The lawsuit claims there were 596 applications for absentee ballots and that “an unknown number were rejected by her (Gravino). The reasons for the rejection of the ballots have not been publicly expressed,” the complaint states.
The complaint claims that there were few, if any, witnesses to the counting of absentee ballots.
“The tallying of absentee ballots occurred without the moderator or Registrar of the Democratic Party, nor was a recount offered,” the complaint states. “The discrepancies in the number of absentee ballots results in additional votes for the Defendant Maturo which affect the results of the election in his favor.”
Gravino herself won re-election in the Town Clerk’s race, but also by a close margin of about 200 votes.
The complaint further states that members of the Republican Party were within 75 feet of a polling place during election hours, a violation of state law.
It also alleges that there were discrepancies with polling machines in District 5.
The lawsuit said that Maltese would have won the election if the issues didn’t occur before the election with the absentee ballots — and — the improprieties didn’t exist on Election Day.
The complaint asks: “To schedule a recanvassing, review and recount of the ballots for the general municipal election.”
Judge Ozalis asked how much it would cost if she ordered a recount.
Town Attorney Joe Zullo estimated the cost of a mayoral recount would “between $15,000 and $17,500.”
Maturo was in court during both days of testimony and has expressed confidence that his close election will be upheld.
Over the weekend, Maturo was sworn in for his ninth term, making him the longest serving New Haven-area chief executive in the area in front of family, friends, and supporters.