Petition process not easy, but works

The success of one petitioner and the failure of the other to collect the signatures of 7,500 registered voters and win a place on the ballot as a candidate for governor indicate the process isn't easy but it's fair and it works.

Their weeks-long efforts left tea party conservative Joseph Visconti on the ballot with more than enough signed petitions and liberal Jonathan Pelto on the sidelines, far short of the required signatures.

Mr. Pelto was quick to compliment Mr. Visconti for his "brilliant" petition gathering. The only candidate for governor calling for repeal of the strict gun legislation passed in 2013, Mr. Visconti found many sympathetic voters at gun shops and even set up a tent outside a large gun shop in Newington to collect their signatures. But he didn't simply concentrate on those supportive of him and his main issue.

He was even more successful in soliciting signatures outside polling places in towns holding referendums on their budgets. By approaching people as they left a polling place, Mr. Visconti's volunteers were able to obtain the signatures of many whose registration had just been confirmed by their participation in the referendum. In Naugatuck alone, Mr. Visconti reportedly collected several hundred signatures, virtually all of them valid and many of them probably Democratic or unaffiliated voters, along with those who knew Mr. Visconti and supported his strong Second Amendment stand.

Mr. Pelto, rather than going where the likely voters were, had volunteers working places like farmers markets and concerts on town greens, seeking valid signatures but getting many from people who weren't registered. He was also disappointed to find few registered voters on college campuses in the summer.

There's no doubt that Mr. Pelto's failure to get on the ballot helps Gov. Dannel Malloy. His presence would surely have attracted some teachers and state employees hostile to the governor but unenthusiastic about Republican Tom Foley.

Mr. Visconti's candidacy may or may not be as damaging to Mr. Foley, who has already won the endorsement of the 15,000 member Connecticut Citizen's Defense League, a leading opponent of last year's gun control legislation. The group's spokesman expressed admiration for Mr. Visconti but felt Mr. Foley has the better chance of defeating Mr. Malloy than the lesser known and poorly financed Mr. Visconti. But there's still a question as to whether Mr. Foley's rather vague opposition to the gun law will satisfy the most ardent Second Amendment advocates.

The petition drives by both candidates did indicate the system could benefit from some modernization and the secretary of the state has indicated that it's on the way.

Currently, candidates have to use individual sheets of paper to collect the signatures from each town. This is a cumbersome procedure in locations like shopping mall parking lots that could attract registered voters and potential signers from many surrounding towns.

Petitioners then have to forward the single pages to the clerks of each town to have the signatures validated. The process and efficiency of checking these signatures apparently varies from town to town, according to Mr. Pelto, who had more reason to question the system than Mr. Visconti.

But the sorting will become less cumbersome soon, according to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who promises electronic sorting of petitions in the not-too-distant future. That alone would greatly improve the efficiency of this basic democratic right.

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 Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. 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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