POSTED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 9:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 9:19pm
WINDSOR, Conn. (CTNow) — An absentee ballot cast by an elderly Windsor woman who was thought to have been dead may decide the outcome of the disputed Democratic primary for the 5th General Assembly District nomination.
That ballot, still contained in a sealed envelope, had not been counted either in the primary or in two recounts because it was marked "deceased."
But Windsor officials discovered Tuesday that the 91-year-old woman who cast the ballot is indeed alive and living in a local nursing home.
The uncounted ballot could wind up being pivotal because a recount Monday in Windsor gave challenger Brandon McGee an additional vote, tying his race with party-endorsed candidate Leo Canty at 774 to 774. A recount of absentee ballots in Hartford Tuesday answered a lingering question about the tally, but didn't change the result.
During the recount in Windsor Monday, lawyers began asking questions about the date of the woman's death, but couldn't get an answer or find any record of an obituary. Town officials called the address listed on the woman's absentee ballot Tuesday morning and learned that she was alive.
McGee, of Hartford, filed an elections complaint following the first recount, during which he lost a vote in Windsor. Canty, of Windsor, was declared the winner by one vote.
McGee's complaint alleged that a ballot was lost in Windsor and that absentee ballots in Hartford had been counted improperly. The 5th General Assembly District is made up of three voting districts in Windsor and two in Hartford.
Superior Court Judge A. Susan Peck ordered the highly unusual second recount last week in an attempt to find the supposedly lost Windsor ballot and clear up a question about the number of absentee ballots received in Hartford.
Hartford's town and city clerk, John Bazzano, testified earlier that his office delivered 79 absentee ballots to the registrars of voters' office, but election officials only counted 78 and were unable to reconcile the difference.
Peck ordered an opening and recount of absentee ballots in Hartford and a full recount in Windsor, and also ordered that any new discoveries be brought to court on Wednesday when the complaint hearing resumes.
Election officials in Hartford Tuesday said they think they answered the question of the missing absentee ballot during the second recount. During the process of matching absentee envelopes to a voter's list, an absentee envelope was discovered that didn't contain a ballot. The envelope was marked "rejected" for that reason.
Olga Vazquez, Hartford's Democratic registrar, said Tuesday that the discrepancy was not discovered in the first recount because no court order had been issued to unseal the absentee ballots. The first recount was called for by the secretary of the state's office.
Peck must decide what to do with the ballot marked "deceased," and it's not known if it will give Canty or McGee the vote they need to win the primary. The woman's vote could have been cast for Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks, who finished third in the primary.
Whatever Peck decides, it is likely to have an effect on the secretary of the state's office, which is busy preparing for the general election Nov. 6.
James Spallone, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said Tuesday that the election calendar "is getting pretty compressed," and that the main issue is absentee ballots which are usually required to be sent out a minimum of three weeks before an election.
Spallone said the courts have the power to adjust schedules related to elections in unusual circumstances like this one.
The disputed primary is a memorable first vote in the newly formed 5th House District, which used to comprise Hartford. Federally mandated redistricting returned a Democratic majority house district to Windsor for the first time in 30 years.
Canty, a politically connected Windsor Democrat, was instrumental in getting Windsor the seat through his lobbying efforts at the Capitol.