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Secretary of the State: Connecticut primary 'doesn't make sense'

With Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders withdrawing from the Democratic presidential candidacy race, Connecticut's pending June 2 primary "doesn't make sense," Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday.

Merrill stopped short of canceling the primary Wednesday, but issued a strong statement saying she hopes the remaining candidates with no chance of winning will "act accordingly" during the during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

"Senator Sanders' announcement today that he is suspending his campaign effectively ends the justification to hold a presidential primary in Connecticut,” Merrill said in her statement. “The results are now predetermined: there is only one active candidate remaining on the Democratic side, and one candidate has mathematically clinched the nomination on the Republican side."

“Under these circumstances,” she continued, “during a public health emergency caused by a global pandemic, it doesn't make sense to put the health and safety of Connecticut's voters and poll workers at risk, and I would hope that the remaining candidates would recognize that and act accordingly.”

Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for Merrill’s office, said Wednesday that Merrill’s statement is not announcing cancelation of the June 2 primary. By state statute, Connecticut election officials must receive official letters of withdrawal from candidates to remove them from the ballot.

On the Democratic side, the state has not yet received letters from former candidate Elizabeth Warren — although Rosenberg said that letter is expected shortly — or from Sanders.

According to a story by the Associated Press, Sanders said Wednesday his name would remain on the ballot in states with pending primaries, so he can gain more delegates and “exert significant influence” on the Democratic platform.

Connecticut must receive letters of withdrawal by noon on April 27 to cancel the Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, California businessman Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente remains on the ballot challenging President Donald Trump.

The Day left voice and email messages Wednesday with De La Fuente’s campaign seeking comment.

"As the electoral landscape remains fluid, I will continue to work with our local election officials to prepare for any eventuality," Merrill concluded in her statement.

Norwich Republican Registrar of Voters Dianne Slopak, chairwoman of the New London County Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, said it would be a waste of money to hold a Republican primary at this point. She said the last time Norwich had to hold a Republican primary with a foregone conclusion, the city saw only a 9% voter turnout, and it cost the city $7,000.

“Given the current situation, it would cost a lot more than that,” Slopak said, referring to the extensive health and safety precautions that would be needed at the polls to protect voters and poll workers from COVID-19 exposure.

c.bessette@theday.com

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