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Judge rejects request to add Green Party candidate to New London mayoral ballot

New London — A state judge on Monday denied New London Green member Frida Berrigan’s attempt to secure a spot on the upcoming election ballot alongside two major party mayoral candidates.

Berrigan had missed a key Sept. 4 deadline for filing election paperwork – a letter certifying her as the Green Party nominee - and was barred from the ballot by the Secretary of the State’s Office.

She filed suit last week arguing that the letter in question was mailed in August by New London Green Party Chairwoman Ronna Stuller but for an unexplained reason was never received.

Judge Harry E. Calmar, following an evidentiary hearing in New London Superior Court, said that while he was mindful that his ruling would impact Berrigan’s candidacy, he did not have the authority to compel state officials to perform actions that are not in compliance with state election law.

“The court cannot intervene when the legislature has clearly expressed an intent to require strict compliance with the filing deadline,” Calmar said.

Calmar cited two cases in his decision, including the 2010 case of Salem attorney John W. Butts. Butts was endorsed by area Democrats to run for probate judge but he had missed a deadline for his certified party endorsement. Butts sued former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz but lost in state Supreme Court.

Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne, in her defense of state election officials, argued that the Secretary of the State’s Office was following state statute with no discretion to place Berrigan on the ballot once the deadline had passed.

Attorney Daryl Justin Finizio, a former New London mayor who represented Berrigan on Monday, said outside the courtroom that he was disappointed in the outcome, which further illustrates the overly burdensome process for minor party candidates seeking office when compared to major party candidates.

“We’re glad we brought the case. It’s important to fight for ballot access for candidates who have met all of the requirement imposed on them by the statutes,” Finizio said.

Finizio also pointed out that election officials never notified Berrigan that her nomination letter had not been received and her candidacy could be in jeopardy. He said it was “disturbing,” to find out through Monday’s testimony from Theodore Bromley, the state’s director of elections, that minor party candidates are not alerted to missing paperwork whereas major party candidates sometimes are.

Bromley said the Secretary of the State’s Office processes paperwork for 300 to 500 minor party candidates in any given year.

Finizio had called on testimony from Stuller who recalled she had dropped the letter in a mail slot at the New London Post Office on Aug.6, the same day she hand-delivered a copy to the City Clerk’s Office. The nomination meeting has taken place two days earlier at the pavilion at Riverside Park.

Osborne, during her cross-examinations of Stuller asked what actions were taken to ensure the nomination document had been received, such as sending the letter certified or calling or emailing the office to confirm receipt afterwards. The Greens had done neither.

“You don’t have any evidence of that mailing.” Osborne asked. “You have no firsthand knowledge the Secretary of the State received the form.”

“I do not have proof it was received,” Stuller answered.

Stuller said later that there were “lessons learned,” by the ordeal, that “the consequences are dire for bureaucratic mishaps.”

Berrigan remained upbeat about her campaign, announcing “write-in, right on,” a reference to her status as a write-in candidate. Berrigan will face Democratic Mayor Michael Passero and Republican Marty Olsen.

g.smith@theday.com

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