Courtesy of Google streetview
Hamden Town Hall (Courtesy of Google streetview)

HAMDEN, CT — (Updated 8:13 a.m.) Four Hamden residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the local town clerk and registrars of voters in an attempt to preemptively prevent absentee ballot fraud in the upcoming municipal election.

The lawsuit filed by Proloy Das of Murtha Cullina said the Hamden residents want to make sure absentee ballots go “only to individuals who have been identified as accountable persons in the absentee ballot application log.”

State law, according to the complaint, requires the town clerk to “maintain a log of all absentee ballot applications,” including the name and address of each person to whom applications are provided and the number of applications provided to each such person.

According to the complaint, the log currently indicates that “hundreds of absentee ballot applications have been issued by the Town Clerk without compliance with the requirement that they be signed out to an accountable individual. Instead, these absentee ballot applications have been identified as being distributed to non-voting institutions within the Town of Hamden, including, but not limited to, Atria Larson Place, Benchmark Senior Living at Hamden, Congregate Housing, Genesis Healthcare — Arden House, and Hamden Health Care Center.”

Hamden Mayor Curt Leng and Town Clerk Vera Morrison said Wednesday that the Republicans who filed the complaint don’t know what they are talking about because there is accountability for the ballots that are distributed at the locations listed in the lawsuit.

According to Leng and Morrison, the town clerk’s office routinely provides a designated person at Hamden’s nursing homes and senior living facilities with absentee ballot applications. These sequentially numbered absentee ballot applications, not ballots, are then delivered and disseminated to those who may need them.

“The designated individual certifies separately to whom the applications were provided, and then returns all applications back to the Town Clerk’s Office, with a distributor’s log, and then prepares the appropriate ballot documentation for administration by the Democratic and Republican Registrars,” Leng and Morrison said in a statement. “This is the procedure outlined in statute and fulfills the goals of providing absentee ballots to those who may not be able to appear in person at the polls due to a disability.”

The reasons voters in Connecticut can request absentee ballots are limited. Voters can apply for absentee ballots if they are unable to appear at the polling place on the day of a primary, election or referendum due to active military service, being out of town the day of the election, illness, physical disability or if their religion forbids secular activity on that day.

Guidance from Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office states that “the town clerk must maintain a log that will include the name; address and number of absentee ballot applications provided to each individual. This log shall contain the information of every absentee ballot application distributed by the town clerk regardless of whether such individual is required to ‘register’ with the town clerk because they intend to distribute five (5) or more absentee ballot applications.”

The four Hamden residents, including one Republican who is on the town council and running for re-election, said in the complaint that they want to make sure the Nov. 5 election is in compliance with the law. They are seeking an injunction to prevent the clerk from counting any “illegally obtained absentee ballots” that have been or will be submitted.

It’s unclear how Dominic Rapini is connected to the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but he issued a press release promoting the filing of the lawsuit. Rapini, a Republican and an Apple account executive, is a board member of the 501(c)4 organization he helped found called Fight Voter Fraud. That organization is not listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“In contrast to the election challenge at issue in Bridgeport, Fight Voter Fraud, Inc. brings this legal action ahead of the November 5th election to ensure that there is time to correct any errors that might otherwise prevent legitimate votes from being counted and that no abuse of the process can taint the upcoming Hamden municipal election,” Rapini said in a statement.

Leng and Morrison said they could have spared Hamden voters the expense of the lawsuit if they had called for clarification.

“Had the plaintiffs simply called the Town Clerk’s Office for more information, our taxpayers could have been spared the expense of defending this specious legal action,” Leng and Morrison said. “The goal of our Town Clerk is to ensure that every eligible citizen in Hamden has access to their right to vote, regardless of age, disability or political affiliation and has been doing so for the last 24 years. The plaintiff’s goals remain unclear.”

Today at 2:30 p.m. a judge in Bridgeport will hear closing arguments in the case filed by voters in that city against their Town Clerk and Registrars of Voters.

The role of absentee ballots in Bridgeport’s primary are the subject of a State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) investigation and a lawsuit.

In the lawsuit filed by Bridgeport voters, Judge Barry Stevens noted that some votes were cast by people who did not meet the strict requirements for absentee ballots.

“The criteria does not include not wanting to go physically and voting in the voting booth,” Stevens said. “In this regard, their absentee ballots …  should not have been submitted.”