Thanks to a unanimous decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court, presidential challenger Mitt Romney, Senate candidate Linda McMahon and all other Republican candidates will find themselves at the top of the state’s ballots on Election Day.
The court ruled in favor of the Connecticut GOP on Wednesday, over a month after the party filed a suit against Secretary of the State and Electoral Commissioner Denise Merrill, a Democrat, challenging her decision to list Democratic candidates first on the ballot. State law requires “the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election” to receive the top spot in ballots.
Merrill interpreted Democrat Dannel Malloy’s victory in the extremely close 2010 gubernatorial race as sufficient reason to put Democrats at the top of the 2012 ballot, but Republicans challenged her decision, noting that the Republican Party actually received more votes than any other party in that election. Malloy’s votes were split between the two parties that endorsed him — with 540,970 on the Democratic line and 26,308 on the Working Families Party line — while Republican challenger Tom Foley garnered 560,874 votes. The court sided unanimously with the GOP in a short decision released on Wednesday without elaborating on the reasoning behind their conclusion, stating that “a full written opinion on these issues will follow.”
State Sen. Len Fasano ’81, a North Haven Republican who was the first to bring the ballot decision to his party’s attention, noted that the decision was unanimous among a court with a mixed bag of “very liberal and conservative” justices.
“I don’t think there’s room for interpretation to say that the court got it wrong,” he said. “To say that would be disingenuous to our court at best and at worst show partisan politics.”
Because of the controversy, the state was faced with an administrative challenge due to imminent ballot deadlines. State law required Merrill to mail ballots to military and overseas voters by Sept. 21. To comply, Merrill opted to send blank ballots along with a list of candidates’ names in alphabetical order along with their party and the office for which they are running. She faced an additional Oct. 5 deadline to distribute the finalized ballots to town clerks.
In her response to the ruling, Merrill said she was “surprised at the outcome,” but “pleased that the decision comes in time for [the distribution of] absentee ballots and Election Day ballots.”
State Republicans, meanwhile, celebrated their victory while excoriating the Merill for protecting “partisan political interests.”
According to Yale political science professor Kelly Rader, there is ample political science research on ballot order to suggest that the top ballot slot allows lesser-known or third-party candidates to receive “a few more percentage points” than they would have received otherwise, suggesting that the court’s ruling may not have a significant effect on the presidential or gubernatorial races, but Republicans in local races may get f