State GOP says it's suing over top ballot line

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Republican Party said Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the State Denise Merrill challenging the order of candidates on state ballots for the upcoming November elections.

The GOP announced it had taken legal action in a news release that was first obtained by The Associated Press after the state courts had closed for the day.

Last month, Merrill, a Democrat, disagreed with Republicans who said their candidates should be on the top line of November's statewide election ballot, even though a Democrat won the 2010 governor's race. They argued that not all of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's votes came from the Democratic Party.

In fact, Republican Tom Foley received 560,874 votes, while Malloy received 540,970 as a Democrat and 26,308 as a Working Families Party candidate.

"Unfortunately, the secretary's unfounded and apparently partisan-driven position leaves us no choice but to seek redress in the courts," said State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola. "We believe the secretary of the state's interpretation is wrong and it would be unfair to Connecticut voters to allow these elections to proceed unlawfully."

A message was left seeking comment with Merrill's office. She was expected to be served with the lawsuit on Friday.

Merrill said last month that the Working Families Party did not have official minor party status back in 2010 and state law says the top line goes to the party of the winning gubernatorial candidate. She said her office's interpretation, which was relied on in last year's election, when Democrats had the top line, goes "back quite a ways," calling it "a consistent interpretation of the statutes."

Labriola and Republican legislative leaders sent a letter to Merrill on July 27, arguing that Republican candidates should be listed first on November ballots because state law says the top line goes to "the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the preceding election."

"The Republican Party line for governor garnered more votes than any other party line in 2010," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, adding how the GOP has earned that spot.

Merrill said last month she believes that since the state replaced its lever voting machines with optical scan machines, the importance of being on the top line of the ballots has been diminished. She said there is no longer a line of candidates from a certain party.

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