A former candidate for state Senate and his treasurer are suing the state of Connecticut calling its law for petitioning candidates and absentee ballots “unconstitutional.”

There’s no indication that Andy Gottlieb, one of the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, would be running for the 12th state Senate District again. However, his attorney, Alexander Taubes, who filed the lawsuit is seeking to challenge Senate President Martin Looney, could benefit if the court sides with his clients.

“It’s a cautionary tale,” Taubes said of his client’s complaint.

“If the ballot access laws were not so stringent maybe he would,” Taubes said.

Taubes said the ballot access laws in Connecticut take away the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice. Taubes plans to go to the convention and seek the 15% of the delegates he needs to get on the ballot, but if he doesn’t he would like to know there’s a path to get on the ballot.

In 2018, Gottlieb fell 32 signatures short of the 1,014 registered Democrats, he needed to gain ballot access.

“Plaintiffs seek to prevent the unconstitutional operation of the Ballot Access Laws from again denying voters the right to vote for the candidate of their choice,” the complaint states.

Taubes is also challenging Connecticut’s absentee ballot laws, which require very specific excuses to apply for an absentee ballot on Election Day. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who is named as a defendant, plans to send out absentee ballot applications to all voters, but she still needs Gov. Ned Lamont to sign an executive order that suspends the excuses for the Aug. 11 primary.

On March 28, Merrill suggested that Lamont could use his executive power to “eliminate any path to ballot access via a petition process.”

She said instead “for challengers in primaries, lower the delegate percentage to gain primary ballot access at the conventions to 5%, apply that to both multi-town and single-town districts, and have that be the only way to get on the primary ballot aside from being the endorsed candidate at a convention.”

Her advice was similar for the November election.

“For the general election, my recommendation is to again eliminate any path to ballot access via petitions as a minor party or petitioning candidate for the November general election ballot.  Instead, grant automatic ballot access for all races in November to any third parties that already have statewide ballot access, currently the Green Party, the Independent Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Working Families Party,” Merrill wrote.

She said those two changes would address the public health emergency and prevent petition gathers from going door-to-door during a pandemic, possibly spreading the coronavirus.

On April 9, Merrill wrote legislative leaders and asked them to consider changing the petitioning process for both the August primary and the November general election.

“In light of the current public health emergency, I thought it was wise to raise the idea of an alternative process,” Merrill wrote.
Merrill has not received a response either from the Lamont administration or legislative leaders.

The lawsuit is asking the federal court to declare that Connecticut’s absentee ballot laws and ballot access laws are a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and for the court to give “a reasonable but prompt” amount of time to fix the problem.

The Attorney General’s office is reviewing the complaint.