Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced at noon that Democrat Dan Malloy was the unofficial winner of the gubernatorial race, but the Associated Press countered Wednesday night that its latest count had Republican Tom Foley in the lead.
Bysiewicz based her pronouncement on returns from Bridgeport and New Haven that gave the former Stamford mayor a 3,103-vote lead that doesn’t rely on controversial late voting in Bridgeport or fall within the 2,000-vote margin for an automatic recount.
Foley disputed Bysiewicz’s statement as premature and unfounded, saying his campaign’s figures show him leading Malloy. And with 99 percent of the precincts counted, The Associated Press had Foley with an 8,000-vote lead Wednesday night.
“We are aware what the AP is reporting, and we’re confident they’re wrong,” said Dan Kelly, the manager of Malloy’s campaign. “Their numbers for New Haven are wrong, and they’re leaving out a significant number of votes in Bridgeport. We remain confident that we are ahead by more than enough votes to avoid a recount.”
Every municipality was supposed to file its returns with the secretary of the state’s office by Wednesday night, but a spokesman for Bysiewicz could not be reached to comment on the AP’s latest numbers.
Earlier Wednesday, Bysiewicz could not say whether disputed ballots cast in Bridgeport and Hartford on photocopies of the official ballot could skew the final numbers. GOP State Chairman Christopher Healy predicted the election remained ripe for a legal challenge.
“We believe that Mr. Malloy has won,” Bysiewicz said. “It appears that way from the unofficial results.”
The secretary, a Middletown Democrat, said she remained confident making that announcement even though more than 1,500 absentee ballots from New Haven and Bridgeport still hadn’t been counted and reported to her office yet. That’s because Malloy won the machine vote tally by more than 17,600 in New Haven and by more than 12,600 in Bridgeport; absentee results tend to follow similar trends. That would mean Malloy’s 3,103-vote margin is likely to grow.
Foley said he nonetheless believes he won the election by a small margin and that his campaign would try to reconcile the competing figures with the secretary of the state’s office.
“We show ourselves as slightly up,” Foley told reporters at his Stamford campaign office at an early-afternoon press conference. “We have to reconcile what the correct number is.”
Foley said his campaign’s figures showed him ahead by less than 2,000 votes, a small enough margin to require a recount. He said his campaign has gotten the vote counts directly from cities and towns, and that his figures aligned with those reported earlier by the Associated Press.
“The future of Connecticut is…at stake in this election, and it’s simply too important for the voters to not make sure that the election results are actually the votes that were cast,” he said.
Foley declined to discuss possible legal challenges or whether Bridgeport’s extended voting affected the outcome, saying it would be premature before the vote totals were reconciled.
Foley added he has not spoken with Malloy since the polls closed.
State law requires a recount whenever in statewide races whenever the margin is less than 2,000 votes, but Bysiewicz predicted the official tally, which likely wouldn’t be available until Thursday or Friday, would exceed that figure.
She noted that although Foley and the Republican Party have disputed a Superior Court judge’s decision to keep 12 polling places in Bridgeport open for two extra hours Tuesday night because they temporarily ran out of ballots during the afternoon, that entire exercise only produced about 500 votes.
But Republicans also have objected to municipal officials’ decisions in Bridgeport and Hartford to photocopy official ballots to deal with temporary shortfalls, and Bysiewicz could not say Wednesday morning how many ballots that entailed. “It could be hundreds or it could be thousands,” she said.
Given that, and other uncertainties, Healy charged after the news conference that Bysiewicz’s statements were both partisan and inappropriate.
“I don’t believe we yet have a full and accurate account,” he said. “This just shows how she has tried to game this election from the get-go.”
But Bysiewicz said that while extending the hours for the Bridgeport precincts was unusual – though still appropriate – there is nothing out of the ordinary regarding local election officials photocopying official ballot forms in anticipation of a small shortage.
“I would be shocked if a judge were to rule Xeroxed ballots couldn’t be counted,” she said, adding that is the standard procedure her office advises communities to follow when ballots run short.
Both Malloy and Foley predicted victory shortly after midnight on Wednesday as votes still were being counted in New Haven and Bridgeport and it became clear Connecticut was headed for its closest gubernatorial election since 1954 when Democrat Abraham Ribicoff defeated Republican John Davis Lodge by just over 3,000 votes.
But Malloy also conceded early Wednesday that the matter might not be resolved for some time.
“I fully acknowledge and respect the rights of other individuals to contest the numbers and play it out,” he said. “This will work itself out. But I’m pretty certain we’re going to be OK.”