New Haven city attorney calls McMahon challenge on ballots ‘political grandstanding’

Victor Bolden, New Haven’s corporation counsel, says that the city has plenty of ballots for the general election next Tuesday and that Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s legal challenge to the city’s electoral system is merely a campaign stunt.

“This is spending taxpayer money and wasting time,”  Bolden said. “This is what happens in the silly season in a political campaign.”

On Thursday, McMahon’s campaign filed a request for an emergency order in Superior Court in Hartford to require the New Haven city clerk and registrars of voters to certify that the city has ordered enough ballots for each precinct. If they can’t certify there are enough ballots, the campaign has asked that “the court institute security and counting measures in the event that unscannable, photocopied ballots are used; and purge the voter file of individuals that are not eligible to vote in the city.”

A Superior Court clerk said the request could be heard on Friday or Monday. Bolden asked the campaign to immediately withdraw the lawsuit.

McMahon is running against  Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, for the Senate seat being vacated by Joseph I. Lieberman.

Bolden said the McMahon campaign had sent a letter to the city clerk dated Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy hit Connecticut and many government offices were closed.

The letter demanded New Haven’s clerk and voter registrars certify that the city had enough ballots by the next day, Oct. 30. But the letter was not read until today, Bolden said.

“This is just political grandstanding,” Bolden said.

Bolden also said there’s no requirement under state law for the city of New Haven to certify its ballots.

“We just have to have enough and we do,” he said.

Todd Abrajano, spokesman for the McMahon campaign, said in an email Thursday that New Haven officials responded to their requests but “didn’t give us a satisfactory answer.”

“However,” Abrajano added, “we had been trying to obtain municipal certifications from the Secretary of State’s office for some time and New Haven obviously had not submitted a proper certification, which is why we sent the letter.”

The McMahon campaign said it took the steps to challenge New Haven’s electoral system “in an effort to avoid a situation similar to what happened in Bridgeport during the 2010 general election.”

“That year, the city ran out of official ballots and had to distribute photocopied ballots to registered voters, which could not be read by optical scanning machines. Subsequently, ballots were mishandled, inappropriately stored, and a resulting hand count raised questions,” a statement from the McMahon campaign said.

The McMahon campaign’s legal filing Thursday said “many precincts in New Haven either ordered significantly fewer ballots than the number of individuals who voted in the 2008 general elections or did not provide historical or contemporaneous information upon which to determine whether a sufficient number of ballots were ordered for the precincts.”

In a letter to the campaign Thursday, Bolden said the McMahon campaign’s allegations “have no merit.” He said there are 70,558 voters in New Haven and the registrars’ office has ordered more 75,000 ballots.

“Your correspondence as well as your pending lawsuit … seems to cast aspersions without complete and accurate information and does not serve the process,” Bolden wrote.