Connecticut Secretary of State Denis Merrill seems to have taken the easy way out in the dispute over whether Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch can appear on the November ballot as a third party candidate after losing the Democratic primary September 15th. Friday, before the Finch campaign could even file the paperwork on the Job Creation Party endorsement of the mayor, Merrill’s “ruled” the party did not meet the requirements and deadlines to get on the ballot.
Merrill’s got it backwards. She should have defaulted to ballot access for Finch and if his opponents wanted to dispute it, they could go to court to get him removed.
Quite simply, elections are the essence of our democracy. There should be a very high standard for denying ballot access. Questions over a missed deadline are not enough. Finch should go to court and the court may well rule in his favor. Bridgeport voters who support Finch should not be disenfranchised by not seeing his name on the ballot (and an ability to write in his name is not enough).
Merrill has had a curious tenure as the chief official overseeing elections in the state. There was the much-discussed ballot problems in some of the state’s cities; the court challenge to her ruling on ballot name order; her using her office to email monthly newsletters touting her achievements to thousands of Democratic insiders and campaign contributor (for which she apologized); and despite her denials, her intervention into a controversy involving a notary public.
The secretary of state should have shown some strength and allowed Finch on the ballot. If other candidates think they can convince voters they can win, then they can win with another choice on the ballot.
By the way, all of this is reasoned without even mentioning that Joe Ganim—the winner of the primary—served seven years in prison for once turning the mayor’s office in his own personal corruption machine.