GUILFORD, Conn (WTNH) – News 8 has obtained emails surrounding the conversations leading up to an Absentee Ballot Application controversy in Guilford, and it paints a disturbing picture.
At our request, the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s Office released a number of emails to us after our broadcast concerning an election complaint.
Republican voters in Guilford filed a complaint with the State’s Election Enforcement Commission. They say a Democratic Town Committee mailer included a “pre-signed” absentee ballot application which they believe is a violation of election law.
Absentee ballot applications are allowed to be mass mailed to eligible voters. The signature on the application has to be “a wet signature.” The law does not require the signer to be present with the voter.
The emails reveal a flurry of confusion around the signature rule. And what appears to be a political consultant admitting past practices may have been illegal.
August 9, 2021, a Democratic Campaign Consultant, Mike Farina from “Blue Edge Strategies” sends an email to the Secretary of the State’s office writing:
“Is that in statute? Or are we safe
sending applications out in bulk with a printed signature? We’ve done that for years
with no issue (but that doesn’t mean it’s been legal).
All my best,
The Elections Director, Ted Bromley responds: “Digital is fine.”
Then a flurry of emails on the issue is sent on October 4, 2021.
A campaign manager from Newington reaches out to the Town Clerk, asking for clarification on whether a digital copy of a signature is okay?
It’s unclear what the clerk’s answer was, but he does reach out to the Secretary of State’s Office, after the campaign manager forwards the August 9th email chain between the consultant Farina and the elections director Bromley.
In his email the Newington Town Clerk, James Krupienski writes;
“Hi Ted, I literally just received his response right after your email. See below. This is becoming a nuclear football. – James”
That email was sent at 1:34 pm.
Instead of responding to the town clerk, Bromley the Director of Elections reaches out to the Democratic Consultant Farina at 1:40 pm.
Just been made aware of the fact that you are using my response to you for statewide purposes. That being the case, let me be clear. When I responded “digital is fine” I meant a copy of an actual signature.
The examples I have been provided are not a copy of a digital signature, they are a Microsoft Word version of a script. This is not appropriate.
I would have been best that you provided me with an example.
Obviously, the requirement of a wet signature or a copy of a real signature is to ensure that the “assistor” actually “assisted” in the document. Reproducing applications at a print shop goes far beyond assisting.
If information is incorrect on the document sent, it will be the town chair who is
held out as the assistor after never seeing the documents.
I hope this clears up my response.”
At 2:38 pm the same day the Newington town clerk writes back;
Thank you for the response, but I am still a bit confused. Based on you description below, the signature in Section IV would be valid? (See Attachment) This is a signature of the Chairman, digitally imposed on to the document, and sent by their hired consultant.
I fully understand that §9-140 would not invalidate the received applications, and we will be processing them.
Is there any recourse that I should expect from the other side. Also, should I still be filing an SEEC complaint to protect my office regarding the processing?
Lots of questions, I know. Thanks for your help.
At 4:32 pm Bromley writes back;
“Yes I think so. Although we may demand more next year. Work with SEEC on that. The other signatures I have seen were signatures made from Microsoft word…..so that would not be valid.”
It’s unclear whether the SEEC has opened an investigation into the signature controversy.
Civil fines and penalties are on a warning that goes out with any AB application. It’s also unclear whether the Guilford Democratic Town Committee included the warning in its mailer.
The Guilford Democrat, Bill Bloss who’s digital signature is on the ballot applications says he sought guidance from the Secretary of the State’s office. Telling News 8, “we followed the guidance we got as we always do.”
On Thursday, the Secretary of the State’s office issued a letter to state election regulators. In it, the secretary’s Director of Elections admits “a miscommunication” to campaign operatives about a signature rule.
News 8 learned there may be as many as a dozen towns affected. Despite the mistake, voters can receive absentee ballots and send them in.