Connecticut’s presidential primary is off until June 2 — and maybe until 2024.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday used his powers under the public-health emergency to postpone April 28 presidential primary due to the coronavirus pandemic. The question now is whether the Democratic presidential nomination still will be contested by then.

“This obviously gives us more time to sort out the ballot,” said Denise Merrill, the secretary of the state. “Of course, everyone is speculating about Bernie Sanders.”

Sanders suspended advertising after a bruising round of primary losses to Joe Biden, but he has yet to formally withdraw from the race.

On the Republican side, President Donald J. Trump was assured of the GOP nomination, even before former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld suspended his campaign. But there is one other candidate on the Connecticut ballot: Rocky De La Fuente.

If there is no Democratic primary, could Connecticut prevail on De La Fuente to quit?

“We’re working on it,” she said. “Actually, J.R. is working on it.”

J.R. Romano, the Republican state chair, is trying to reach De La Fuente and ask him to abandon a vanity campaign.

Under Connecticut law, any candidate who has qualified for the ballot stays there until notifying the secretary of the state in writing that they are withdrawing. With the postponement, the deadline for withdrawal now is in May, 25 days before June 2.

The state of emergency, however, gives the governor wide latitude in waiving various requirements set by law or regulation.

Tom Perez, the Democratic national chair, urged states to hew to the original schedule and think about conducting their primaries by mail. But Connecticut has no such option, not even during a public emergency.

Connecticut’s rules for the use of absentee ballots are set in the constitution.

“We’re really hamstrung in Connecticut,” Merrill said. “We are literally the restrictive state [on alternative voting] in the country, and we are unable to change that.”

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Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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2 Comments

  1. Besides the issue of Constitutional limits on absentee ballots, there is another obstacle in the Constitution and that is the Certification date of 10 days after the election, baked in the Constitution for state offices. That would not apply to the Presidential Primary but would for the August primary and the November election. Laws require that all ballots be counted by day two, at the latest, and then any recanvasses be called and completed by eight days after the election.

    So that 10 day limit means unless an emergency declaration can override the Constitution it would be all but impossible to do the job within those bounds. (California with currently about 65% mail-in ballots takes about three weeks to count them after the election, and starts the process days before the election).

    We might also have a huge challenge if a large number of citizens make possibly legitimate claims for absentee ballots under the current law.

    Staffing up appropriately might work, however the repeated failure of several cities to staff up to handle Election Day Registration is a cautionary tale.
    Also with the 6′ separation rule, recording, opening envelopes, and counting ballots while meeting opposing party checking requirements will add to time and staffing needs.

    Lots of planning, recruiting, and training is necessary here.

    1. Hi LutherW, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. This is truly a thoughtful comment and we are glad to post it, but we will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

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