Ward 22 Alderman-elect Greg Morehead is expected to file a complaint with the state government today accusing one of his opponents in last Tuesday’s election of voter fraud.
When the polls closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Morehead seemed to have won by a large margin — 128 votes over write-in candidate Lisa Hopkins, his closest opponent. But once absentee ballots were counted later that night, Morehead’s margin of victory was significantly smaller. Hopkins pulled in 107 absentee ballots, ending up with a total of 194 votes next to Morehead’s 237. (The third candidate, Ward 22 Democratic Committee Co-chair Cordelia Thorpe, received 18 votes in the election.)
Now, despite retaining his seat — which represents students who live in Morse, Ezra Stiles, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges as well as Swing Space — Morehead is crying foul. In his complaint, to be filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Morehead will claim that Hopkins tampered with absentee ballots, Morehead told the News.
“Something’s fishy with that,” Morehead said in an interview last Wednesday, referring to the number of absentee votes his opponent had won.
Morehead said he has received statements from two New Haven senior citizens, both of whom he said approached him with concerns about their absentee votes. The residents claimed Hopkins told them all they had to do was sign their ballots before she would mail them, Morehead said. Hopkins then took the blank and unsealed ballots from them, Morehead added.
Hopkins did not respond to four phone and two e-mail requests for comment Monday and over the weekend.
Thorpe, for her part, said absentee ballots are important to candidates in the ward given the number of senior citizens in the area. According to state law, voters can apply for absentee ballots for reasons including, but not limited to, illness or physical disability.
Sochie Nnaemeka ’10, who worked on Hopkins’ campaign during the primary, said she would not comment on Hopkins’ campaign strategy in the general election. But because of the high number of seniors in the community, Hopkins did reach out to that demographic during the primary, Nnaemeka said.
“I think naturally she gravitated towards them,” Nnaemeka said.
Although SEEC spokeswoman Nancy Nicolescu said she could not comment on specifics without a complete investigation into the case, she said that in general, the candidate should not be present when absentee ballots are filled out by voters and should not handle them.
“The bottom line is no,” Nicolescu said. “[Candidates] shouldn’t be handling them. They shouldn’t be present when they are being executed.”
According to state law, candidates should not be present when a voter fills out an absentee ballot, except in rare cases such as if the voter is a family member of the candidate.
Board of Alderman President Carl Goldfield said the SEEC has expressed concern about absentee ballots in elections across the state. In 2002, Michael Montano ’03 — who was a former campaign manager for Ward 16 Democratic Town Committee co-chair candidates Magda Natal and Denise Maldonado — and then-Ward 12 aldermanic candidate Angelo Reyes were arrested for committing ballot fraud.