An attorney representing West Haven mayoral candidate Barry Lee Cohen filed an election complaint in Superior Court Monday challenging the results of the mayoral contest. Cohen wants to be declared the winner, or to see a do-over.
Democratic incumbent Nancy Rossi was declared the winner of the election by a slim 32 votes following a recount. However, the complaint argues that there were issues with the handling of absentee ballots.
Cohen, a Republican who has not conceded the race, was winning the machine count before absentee ballots were counted on election night. He argues through his attorney that around 7:30 p.m. that night, Democratic Registrar of Voters Sherri Lepper came into the central counting room with a number of unopened absentee ballots in her hand.
“One of the subordinate absentee ballot counters questioned the validity of the absentee ballots delivered by Lepper and stated that they should all be rejected because none of them were endorsed by the municipal clerk,” according to the complaint. “Rather than reject the ballots, Lepper left the counting room with the subject absentee ballots in her possession to seek advice from the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office.”
The complaint goes on to say that Lepper brought the absentee ballots back at 8:15 p.m., “stating that she had emailed with the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office and was advised to include the unendorsed absentee ballots in the vote count of the Election.”
“Upon opening the absentee ballots delivered by Lepper, the absentee ballot counters noticed that all of the absentee ballots delivered by Lepper cast votes exclusively for the democratic candidates,” the complaint states.
The filing goes on to name at least one elector who voted by absentee who hasn’t lived in West Haven since 2017. Vincent Marino, Cohen’s attorney, says that ballot was counted.
Marino is asking the court to throw out all of the absentee ballots and declare Cohen the winner – or alternatively to hold a new election.
The standard for overturning elections is whether there are enough problems to overcome the difference in the votes. Connecticut courts historically have been hesitant to get involved in election outcomes.
Aside from Lepper and Rossi, City Clerk Patricia Horvath, Republican Registrar of Voters Jo Ann Callegari, Head Moderator George Chambrelli IV and Head Absentee Ballot Moderator Catherine Conniff are named as defendants.