Tainted election the last thing state needed

It appears, sort of, that the state has a governor-elect, probably. This is not how a state should run an election.

The debacle in Bridgeport and a confusing voter tabulation process will not get Democrat and former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy off to the best start, if indeed he is the next governor.

His rush to Hartford to declare himself the next governor before any official result was inappropriate and smacked of a power grab.

Yet as votes continued to trickle in from New Haven and Bridgeport on Thursday, it became increasingly apparent that the Democrat would emerge from the process with a narrow lead over Republican opponent Tom Foley.

It was unclear as of this writing whether Mr. Foley would pursue any legal appeals. We would urge him to weigh such a decision very carefully and only if convinced he had solid grounds and a realistic likelihood of prevailing. Though both the candidates have announced transition teams, the process cannot truly begin until a clear, unchallenged winner emerges. The worst-case scenario for Connecticut would be a lingering contested election. Work needs to begin as soon as possible on policies to get the state's economy on a road to recovery and its fiscal house back in order.

The governor-elect has precious little time - about three months - to prepare a budget for the legislature that addresses the fiscal crisis and projected $3.3 billion deficit.

Having large swaths of the electorate questioning the legitimacy of his election is certainly not the way Mr. Malloy, or for that matter, Mr. Foley if he manages to pull this thing out, would want to begin the process of confronting the monumental challenges facing Connecticut.

Throughout election night, into Wednesday and then Thursday morning, unofficial town-by-town tabulations available to the public showed Mr. Foley with a narrow lead. Yet on Wednesday Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, announced her party's candidate the winner. The announcement was inappropriate and premature. Making that apparent was the secretary's refusal to release specific numbers.

On Thursday, news emerged from New Haven that Mr. Malloy had trounced Mr. Foley there by about 18,600 votes. The vote totals were triple in earlier, unofficial announcements. Why had it taken days to get the New Haven totals?

Ms. Bysiewicz announced Thursday plans for a news conference to announce official results. Then she canceled it. Finally she released totals, but not for Bridgeport, where they were still counting. Without Bridgeport, Mr. Foley was 8,409 votes ahead. But unofficial numbers for Bridgeport showed a 12,000-vote margin, enough to place Mr. Malloy in the lead with the release of official numbers.

What a mess.

The failures in Bridgeport - ordering 21,000 printed ballots for about 70,000 registered voters, having to print ballots on copy machines, having to go to court to extend voting hours - are scandalous. Did no one expect a good turnout after the president campaigned in the city, urging voters to the polls?

Reforms are necessary to require registrars to have enough ballots and mandating the secretary of the state to monitor that process.

Ms. Bysiewicz is too quick to disown any fault in this disaster. Her office has prime responsibility for carrying out clean elections that the public can have confidence in. This election failed on both counts. The next secretary had better come up with ways to fix it.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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