Which party’s candidates should appear first on Connecticut’s November election ballots? Republicans claim it should belong to them, Democrats claim the same. Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, agreed that it should be Democratic candidates whose names appear first on the ballot. The state Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday morning on to who is right under the law. The Shad is not an attorney but the read here is that Merrill’s decision will be upheld. And it’s very possible the GOP already expect it.
In the case of the 2012 November election, party ballot order is determined by each of its gubernatorial candidate’s performance in the preceding election; that much is not in disagreement. From there it gets tricky. Republicans argue the top line belongs to them because while Democrat Dannel Malloy won the election, he did so with votes from the Working Families Party line. Republican Tom Foley got more votes as a Republican than Malloy did only on the Democratic line. But that may not be enough.
Secretary Merrill, in a letter to Republican Party Chair Jerry Labriola, Senate GOP Leader John McKinney and House Republican Leader Larry Cafero, noted that the letter or plain reading of the law gives the top spot to the Dems. She quotes the state statute that determines which party gets the top line as, “The party whose candidate for Governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election…” Foley may have gotten more Republican line votes than Malloy did on the Democrat line, it’s the Democratic Party’s candidate who polled the highest number of votes when the Working Families (WFP) line is added in. Merrill hangs the reasoning on the fact that the WFP’s endorsement of Malloy was as a designated party, not as a major party which is also determined by the previous election.
The state Supreme Court may be hesitant to overturn an interpretation by the secretary of state unless she is obviously wrong on the law. At best, the statute might be vague but that doesn’t seem so either. And chances are the Republicans know that. The lawsuit could be a slightly different version of the one the GOP filed over redistricting. They lost that one too but were able to go back to their people and say, “Hey, we did everything we could. The court took us out of it.” In this case, they are able to say the same to their candidates about their ballot positions.