New London mayor concedes that new polling places resolution may be illegal

New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced Thursday that he will not continue to challenge the secretary of the state’s office’s interpretation of state election law and conceded that the resolution passed Monday by the City Council to add three new polling locations in the city may violate the law.

Finizio, in a statement, said he spoke with City Law Director Jeffrey T. Londregan and the secretary of the state’s office Thursday morning. Both advised him that the resolution may violate state law.

“Even being a lawyer myself, however, I must yield to the legal interpretations made by our law director and by the secretary of (the) state’s office,” Finizio wrote. “They have rejected my legal argument and opined that the council’s resolution is not permissible under state law.”

The resolution, which the council approved Monday by a 4-3 vote, would have established three polling places in the city’s District 1 and two in District 2. District 3 would have kept its single polling place.

State law “requires a suitable polling place (singular) for each district,” Ted Bromley, a staff attorney for the secretary of the state’s office, wrote in an email Tuesday to New London’s Chief Administrative Officer Laura Natusch, emphasizing “singular.”

Finizio on Wednesday said he interpreted the law to mean that the municipal registrars of voters must provide “at least” one suitable polling place in each district, but may provide more than that.

“I believe it is a reasonable, rational, and logical legal determination that the state statute mandates one polling location per district, but allows multiple locations per district as well,” Finizio said Thursday in his statement.

In a statement, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she strongly supports initiatives to increase turnout and make voting easier, but that the council’s resolution is not legally permissible.

“I appreciate the mayor’s interest in offering the best service possible to the voters of New London. My office is happy to work anytime with local officials and elected leaders to advise them about what the law does allow, so that they can improve voting and potentially increase the number of polling places in their community,” Merrill said. “The mayor’s idea certainly has merit, however it is unfortunately not allowed under current state law.”

Finizio said he continues to support the goal of the resolution but no longer wishes to contest the state’s interpretation of the law.

“While I continue to respectfully disagree with their interpretation of the statute, I yield to their professional opinions and withdraw my appeal to the secretary of (the) state,” he said. “I urge the council to follow the law director’s opinion and the secretary of (the) state’s office’s advice.”

On Wednesday, City Council President Wade A. Hyslop said he fully supports the intention of the resolution and hopes the council would take up the measure at a later date.

“Maybe we need to look at the polling places we have now and work on more centrally locating them within the voting districts,” Hyslop said. The resolution likely “needs to go into committee to look at it and develop it better.”

c.young@theday.com

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