Ballot Snafu Again in Stratford

Nearly 280 voters in a Stratford have been listed in the wrong state House of Representatives district for years, and local voting officials are trying to sort it out after 59 absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election were given out and 45 received in Town Hall.

The Registrar’s office is once again scrambling to fix the absentee ballot error. This isn’t the first time a mistake was uncovered and some fear this latest error could have affected the last three election cycles.

The apartment complex, constructed in 2013 on the former Keating Ford property, had been given ballots for the 120th House of Representatives District, and should have been given ballots for the 121st House of Representative District.

The 121st District race is between third-term Democrat State Rep. Joe Gresko and challenger Republican Ed Scinto. Current Democrat State Rep. Phil Young is once again being challenged by Republican Jim Feehan in the 120th.

Young’s Republican opponent Jim Feehan was out door knocking and uncovered the address error. His campaign reported the issue to the Stratford Town Clerk. According to various news reports, the apartment complex address is in between both the 120th and 121st house districts. Rick Marcone, the Democratic Registrar, admitted people who live in the apartments were assigned to the wrong district, which means they may have voted with the wrong ballot for 3-election cycles.

Lou DeCilio, the town’s Republican voter registrar, said late Wednesday afternoon that leaving the apartments out of the correct district in previous elections could have affected the Young-Feehan races of 2018, where voters were given the wrong ballots on election day. DeCilio claims that he didn’t know if it has been that way since the apartment was built, ”At least we caught it in time for Election Day.”

“This is a human error thing, but it has to be remedied very soon,” said J.R. Romano, Republican State Chairman. And they will be given the right ballot.

“This is a difficult situation,” Young said on Wednesday. “The apartments were built in 2013, so since then, they’ve been voting in the wrong district. This is a screw up that no one seems to be able to answer for me. When I heard about this today, I felt my stomach drop.”

In a news outlet interview State Representative Phil Young said, “They found that out the day of the election. This time luckily it’s six days before the election. This has to do with the registrar of voters not doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

“They are in the process of fixing it now,” State Representative Joe Gresko said Wednesday afternoon. “We have a couple of days to figure it out.” According to the Secretary of the State the 8 wrong ballots – which can be identified by their bar code – will be set aside and hand counted in case of a challenge. Gabe

Rosenberg, counsel for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, confirmed the mix-up was a districting error. According to Rosenberg, it’s new housing that was put into the wrong House district, stressing that state law directs town voting officials (our Registrars) to reissue correct ballots and use the serial numbers on the erroneous completed ballots to track them down and void them.

The registrars began to investigate the apparent mix-up early on Wednesday and went to the complex after explaining to the state what the problem was. Voters are being offered new ballots.

Click here to read Stratford Town Democratic Committee Chairman Steven Taccongna’s Letter to the Mayor’s office. 

Candidate: Philip Young

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Name: Philip Young

Office: State Representative 120th District

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

Yes, Stratford Town Council District 6, 2015-2017. Current 120th State Representative since March 2017.

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

One of my favorite accomplishments actually in Stratford was seeing the mayor to prevent the sale of the Water Pollution Control Facility, and the subsequent town referendum to stop the sale. Both were successful.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

I really want to work on policy issues that will benefit the town of Stratford, as well as the citizens of the state as a whole.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

Update recycling laws and get away from single stream recycling. Introduce a law called the “Cure Act”, which would change the way disease is treated. It would look for the cure of Diabetes and other pre-conditions instead of maintenance-based approaches. Pass legislation for early voting in CT.

What’s more important for Stratford right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

Both are important, but since Stratford has a lot of properties that are brownfields, I’d like to see them rehabilitated, with new entities to go onto the tax rolls.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Probably donate half it to the Sterling House so they could expand their youth programs, and the other half to the Baldwin Center to expand their programs for the elderly.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making process?

My staff sends out almost daily updates on issues I am working on. I’ve also held community meetings at the library, Baldwin Center and Sterling House to hear what Stratfordites are concerned over. I also work very hard to answer questions sent to my email.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

Long Beach, for a good hike or just soaking up some sun.

Candidate: Dr. James Simon

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Name: Dr. James Simon
Office:  Democrat running for Registrar of Voters

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

I served as Assistant Secretary of the Environment in Massachusetts, focusing on brownfield remediation issues (like the AVCO property). My varied experience gives me many other ways to view voting issues: as an Associated Press political reporter who covered elections for 10 years … as a nationally known and published expert on how to get young people more involved in voting … and as a university Dean and professor who uses his doctorate in public administration to study government. I also am proud of my volunteer work for the Stratford Library, the town’s Greenway Committee, and others who need help.

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

When Karen, Chris and I moved back to Stratford in 1997, we realized you could make a big impact without holding public office. At that time, the town made plans to widen beautiful Whippoorwill Lane to make way for a gas pipeline; since the pipeline company was paying for alterations, the town announced plans to chop down dozens of trees on the lane. I helped organize neighbors, met at Boothe, formulated plans to get press coverage, testified at public hearings, and shamed the town into backing off – which they did.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

Every other town in Connecticut has part-time Registrars of Voters. But our Town Council has been spending $300,000 a year to pay four (!) full-time Registrars, with benefits. The result: it has cost Stratford five times more per voter to run the Registrar’s office than neighboring Trumbull. Out of the 150+ towns in Connecticut, guess how many have followed The Stratford Model. None! We continue to be the only town to waste your taxpayer money on full-time patronage jobs instead of using it to protect and expand voting.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

1. Give myself time to fully understand what is involved in the Registrar’s position.

2. Begin work to roll back the Registrar positions to part-time status, adding any needed
additional part-time workers in election seasons.

3. Restore integrity to the office. Make sure the Democratic Registrar keeps an eye on the
Republican registrar, and vice versa, consistent with a watchdog role.

4. Use my experience in public administration to update the voting rolls, lobby the state
legislature to make mail-in voting easy and permanent, protect voters’ rights, expand
voting access, and look for ways to further automate the registration process.

What’s more important for Stratford right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

This is well beyond the role of the Registrar. I would hope any such decisions are made with an eye toward generating more business revenue to help the town balance its books and reduce the sky-high property taxes in town.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the town any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Bring in economic development experts to help generate a marketing plan for the town, rooted in the goal of making Stratford a destination for the arts and young families, tied to the terrific new plan to rebuild the Shakespeare Theatre.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making
process?

I don’t understand why the Registrar’s office does so little in social media to reach out to voters and remind them of voting rights, rules and procedures. At the very least, we should have an interactive Facebook page and website that provides expanded information, allows you to ask questions, and encourages voting.

Call me an idealist, but in this polarized age, I also would hope the Registrars could have a non- partisan citizen advisory board to study ways to expand the scope of the office, such as innovative ideas to engage/excite high schoolers about civic life and their privilege/duty to vote.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

As I recently wrote on Facebook, a hidden treasure here in District 8 is the Sikorsky Estuary Walk, which allows you to walk or bicycle from Ryders Landing, under the Merritt Parkway Bridge, and up on the bridge as you walk to Milford. It’s safe, free … and it brings back memories of the 200 times I did it with my beloved dog Diesel before he passed on.

Candidate: Joe Gresko

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Office: State Representative District 121

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

Two and a half term incumbent as State Representative for the 121st House Assembly District. Also, former Fifth District Town Councilperson and Inland Wetlands Commission member

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an
accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

Securing the state bond funds for the expansion/renovation of Sterling House. The town icon is a beacon for sports, services and learning.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

A promise I made to my predecessor, former State Representative Terry Backer. Also, having worked at the State Capitol, I was familiar with the process and excited about helping our town at the state level.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

Continue increasing the education funds Stratford receives from the state. Also, protecting the phase out of state income tax on social security and pensions. (We are in year two of four-year phase out)

What’s more important for Stratford right now? Building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

I prefer rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing existing homes and commercial areas, like the former Mobil Films Division on Lordship Blvd, which is in the final stages of demolition.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would divide the funds between projects that when completed, would add to Stratford’s appeal. I secured $1 million in state bond funds for the Connecticut Air & Space Center a couple years back. I would add to that fund to highlight Stratford’s place in aviation history. I’d also purchase some parcels of land that would add to the footprint of
Roosevelt Forest and try to purchase some land around the South End Community Center so it could be expanded.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making process?

I engage Stratford residents through email, e-blasts, FB posts and State Capitol updates they receive in the mail. Many constituents also contact me on my cell phone. I respond to emails and phone/text messages myself.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

Stratford Point is a favorite because of its scenic beauty and work done to reclaim the land following remediation. I joined volunteers over the years to remove invasive species, plant natives and plant beach grass to halt beach erosion.