State's highest court sides with Republicans in ballot dispute
Hartford - The Connecticut Supreme Court sided with state Republicans on Wednesday, agreeing their candidates, including Mitt Romney for president and Linda McMahon for the U.S. Senate, should appear on the top of the November ballot.
In a unanimous decision, the justices agreed that state law requires the GOP candidates to have top billing, but they did not offer any details surrounding their decision. A full written opinion was not released Wednesday.
"We thought that the Republican Party, based on the statute, was required to be on the first line of the ballot," said Proloy K. Das, an attorney for the state Republican Party. "We're glad that we came out on top."
State Republicans took Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, to court this summer after she denied a request from party leaders to change the order of this year's ballot. The Republicans argued that state law requires the order to be dictated by the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election and that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was only able to win that year with the votes he received as a Working Families Party candidate.
Tom Foley received 560,874 votes while Malloy won 540,970 as a Democrat and 26,308 as a cross-endorsed Working Families Party candidate.
"I regret that it was necessary to file a legal action in response to the Secretary of the State's incorrect interpretation of election law, but I am pleased that our Republican candidates will have their rightful place on the top ballot line for the Nov. 6, 2012, election," Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement.
Merrill was not available to comment. In August, she called the lawsuit a "regrettable distraction" and a "waste of valuable resources and taxpayer money."
Her office has argued that the Working Families Party did not have minor party status in 2010, so the top line goes to Malloy's party.
"We are confident we have consistently interpreted the law and applied it correctly," Merrill said in August. "Our legal conclusion was, the party of the governor - in this case the Democratic Party - gets the top line in Connecticut elections. The law is well-established."
Merrill also has argued that since the state began using optical scan machines, the importance of being on the top line because there is no longer a line of candidates from a certain party.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, praised the high court's decision.
"The law is the law," he said. "The Supreme Court, we believe, arrived at the right decision based on what the statute says, not a public official's interpretation. Our legal team did a great job."
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