Don't use muscle to control ballot

In the 2010 race for governor, the loser, Republican Tom Foley, got more votes on the Republican line than the winner, Democrat Dannel Malloy, received on the Democratic line. Mr. Malloy wouldn't have won the election without a little help from the Working Families Party, which had also endorsed him and thereby gave him a second spot on the ballot.

This was the vote for governor by party:

Republican (Foley) 560,874

Democratic (Malloy) 540,970

Working Families (Malloy) 26,308

The election gave Mr. Malloy the governorship but it gave the Republican Party and its candidates the top spot on election ballots for the next four years. That's the way it's traditionally been done in Connecticut, the party with the most votes for governor gets the first line on the ballot.

Since this is normally the same person, it was never a problem, but the 2010 election wasn't normal. So, the official in charge of elections, Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, decided a change had to be made in the rules to accommodate the abnormal election result. She therefore ruled that the party of the gubernatorial winner would get the first line on the next two election ballots instead of the party that won the most votes.

The Republican Party disagreed and filed what Democratic officials disparaged as a frivolous lawsuit. It claimed their party, as the leading party vote getter, deserved the top ballot line through the 2014 gubernatorial election. The Connecticut Supreme Court didn't think the GOP suit or the claim therein was at all frivolous and ruled 7-0 that Secretary Merrill was wrong and the Republicans would be tops, at least on the ballot, through the next gubernatorial election.

The immediate result was to place Republican candidates in Row A on the ballot in last year's presidential election, which meant the first candidates voters saw for each office had the names Romney and McMahon and one of the five Republicans who ran for Congress. It didn't help much, as all of them lost.

But the Democrats, aware that Gov. Malloy may need all the help he can get in 2014, would prefer that his name be first against Mr. Foley or some other Republican.

To accomplish this the party of Malloy and of the majority in both houses of the General Assembly, is trying to go around that unanimous Supreme Court ruling. A bill giving the top line to the party of the winning candidate for governor has won its first committee test on - surprise - a party line vote.

If this doesn't work, Democrats have that other bill prohibiting a candidate's name from appearing more than once on a ballot. Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. says having the same person on the ballot as the candidate of more than one party is confusing, though, as we noted last week, he offers no evidence. It's pretty certain, however, that most of those who voted on the Working Families line for now Gov. Malloy would have voted for him as a Democrat, had they no other choice.

Sen. Williams' bill would also prohibit a third party from endorsing someone already endorsed by a major party, which might raise questions about whether it is constitutional to tell a party whom it can or cannot endorse. It would certainly marginalize the influence of minority parties if that's the Democrats' motive.

Even with their majorities, the Democrats may not have the votes to pass either of these bills, but their leaders have let us know they have the arrogance that comes with one party rule to try.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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