Independent candidates barred from checking votes

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Photo by Charlie Croom.

On Election Day tomorrow, some of mayoral candidate Jeffrey Kerekes’ supporters might argue that his campaign will face an underlying disadvantage in coordinating the day’s volunteer organization.

Last Thursday, New Haven Democratic registrar of voters, Sharon Ferrucci, turned down Kerekes’ request to place his own vote-checkers — campaign staff who provide an assessment throughout the day of how many of the candidate’s supporters come to the polls, and thereby help candidates target turnout efforts — at election venues on Nov. 8. The rejection, according to Ferrucci, was not a political decision, but rather a procedural matter based on a state law that bars independent candidates — who are not affiliated with a political party — from posting vote-checkers at the polls, and will therefore also affect both Yale undergraduates running for Ward 1 alderman.

“I understand the law — it’s been on the books for years,” Ferrucci said. “I can’t change the law, I’m only here to do my job.”

There may have been another way for Kerekes to legally place vote-checkers aside from asking Ferrucci, who can only approve those affiliated with Democratic campaigns. The Republican registrar of voters, Rae Tramontano, has equal authority as Ferrucci to place vote-checkers at the polling places, and may have made a party exception for Kerekes, the mayoral candidate said. Tramontano said that while he could have decided to place Kerekes’s vote-checkers at the polls, he had until Sunday to make that decision under state law.

“My hands are tied — it’s too late now to do anything,” Tramontano said. “Nobody talked to me a week ago.”

Tramontano added that she spoke to an attorney at the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, who reassured her that Ferrucci was simply following the law.

Mac Herring ’12, the campaign manager for Ward 1 candidate Sarah Eidelson’s ’12, said while she cannot comment on the mayoral race, the campaign believes the law is being interpreted in a non-biased way, since neither Vinay Nayak ’14, her opponent in the race, nor Eidelson is allowed to have vote-checkers at polls.

“The same way the law denies Kerekes’s unofficial poll checkers, it denies both Vinay and Sarah because they are all running as independents.”

Herring said that the vote-checkers are a relatively important component to any election day because they allow each campaign to get feedback on the day’s progress.

Danny Kedem, Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s campaign manager, said that while he trusts Ferrucci’s judgment and understands she’s simply following the rule of law, every candidate should have vote-checkers in order to make the election more fair.

“Anyone who is on the ballot should have the opportunity to have someone to check the names of people who are voting,” Kedem said.

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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