Courtesy of CT-N
Rep. Michael D’Agostino (Courtesy of CT-N)

HARTFORD, CT — A four-member bipartisan committee of the House of Representatives began its review Friday of the contested election in Stratford.

The committee is expected to interview witnesses and has until Feb. 4 to make a recommendation about whether a new election should be held.

Rep. Phil Young won by 13 votes following a recount, but Republican James Feehan sued him and election officials because at least 76 voters received the wrong ballots.

“It probably makes sense that we hear from the parties and what they have to say,” Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, said.

Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said they should also give an opportunity for opening and closing statements.

Both sides are expected to give the panel a list of witnesses they believe should be heard and any documents the committee should consider.

Reading from a 1999 Connecticut Supreme Court case, D’Agostino said each elector is entitled to have that vote counted. But when the votes are not properly credited it sets up a situation where an individual’s right as an elector conflicts with the results on an election.

“An election is essentially and necessarily a snapshot,” D’Agostino said. “… The snapshot can never be duplicated. The campaign, the resources available, the totality of the electors who voted in it and their motivations will inevitably be different a second time around.”

Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said there is very little precedent for the committee to follow.

“Moving forward we should be mindful of the precedent we are setting here for the state of Connecticut,” Candelora said.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, another member of the committee, said he’s not an attorney and doesn’t want to get bogged down in legalize.

Perillo said the committee needs to avoid partisanship or even the perception of partisanship.

“We have 75 ballots, what happened to them?” Perillo said. “Our charge is to identify what the true facts are.”

The Democratic Party holds a 92-59 majority in the House and it’s unlikely its members would vote to hold a new election if that’s what the four-member panel ends up recommending. If the committee vote to hold a new election is a tie then the motion fails and doesn’t make it to a full vote of the House.

The state Supreme Court in December decided that the House of Representatives is the proper venue to decide a contested election, rather than the courts.