Nine days after Sarah Eidelson ’12 defeated challenger Fish Stark ’17 in the Ward 1 Democratic Primary, Rafi Bildner ’16 — a former volunteer on Stark’s campaign — has filed a complaint to the state elections commission alleging that Eidelson’s campaign violated election law.
The complaint, filed with the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission this morning, claims that members of Eidelson’s campaign violated state election law by canvassing within 75 feet of the polling place in the basement of the New Haven Free Public Library. Eidelson won the Sept. 16 primary with over 66 percent of the vote.
“I witnessed several different individuals from the Sarah Eidelson campaign team walk/escort voting members of the public past the 75-foot line,” Bildner wrote in his complaint. “While they were walking the public to the polling site, and past the 75-foot line, I heard these volunteers/organizers actively campaign to the constituents they were escorting.”
According to state law, no person canvassing for or against any candidate may step within 75 feet of any polling place during an election. The 75-foot line, the law states, will be clearly marked. On the day of the primary election, a sign marking the 75-foot boundary was placed at the top of the ramp leading down to the entrance of the library.
Eidelson declined to comment and said she will not make a statement regarding Bildner’s filing until she receives notice from the SEEC about the complaint.
Bildner said his decision to file a complaint emanated from his desire to see “fair elections” in the city. He shared with the News a video, taken on primary day, of an Eidelson campaigner walking beyond the 75-foot line while wearing an Eidelson button and carrying a campaign clipboard.
Though Bildner’s complaint focuses only on alleged violations of the 75-foot rule, he said he saw other possible infractions — namely concerning non-ward residents voting — throughout the day. He said some people who live outside of Ward 1, many of whom were “visible supporters” of Eidelson, voted in the ward.
Stark said he had also seen violations of the 75-foot line during the primary “many times.” He added that Bildner had informed him of the filing, but that Bildner had not consulted with the campaign about making the filing.
“This is a complaint that Rafi chose to make on his own, independent of the campaign, but it is something that I did see occur,” he said. “I don’t have any desire to draw out the primary — what’s done is done — but I hope the result of this is a commitment to free and fair campaigning and playing by the rules.”
Though Bildner was a prominent volunteer on Stark’s campaign team, he underscored that the complaint should not be construed as a political maneuver against Eidelson. The complaint, he said, is not an indictment of Eidelson’s candidacy or policies; rather, he said, it is meant to ensure that fair elections are conducted in the ward and throughout the city.
Nathaniel Persily ’92, an election law professor at Stanford Law School, said the allegations are highly unlikely to impact the outcome of the primary election. He added that generally, in cases such as this one, the punishment is usually a monetary fine; a rerun of the election is rare.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, president of the Yale College Democrats and a staff columnist for the News, said he was displeased that the complaint was filed. He called on Democrats to put the primary behind them and move on to the general election against Republican Ugonna Eze ’16. Jacob Wasserman ’16, a Ward 1 co-chair, described the complaint as “petty and churlish.”
“Sarah won decisively, and really we all need to be moving on from this, because we have an election going on, and it’s becoming a distraction for actual issues in the city,” Blackmon said.