Hartford Resident Alleges Illegal Handling Of Absentee Ballots
By JENNA CARLESSO
February 29, 2012
HARTFORD —— With less than a week before the city's Democratic Town Committee election, a resident has filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging illegal handling of absentee ballots.
Evelyn Cruz filed a complaint accusing another resident, Clorinda Soldevila, of hand-delivering three absentee ballots to her home on Bond Street, and then picking up those ballots and delivering them to city hall.
Mathew Sorokin, treasurer of a political action committee supporting a slate of candidates for the city's 4th District that includes state Rep. Kelvin Roldan, said Soldevila is a worker for the opposing slate, which includes committee member Marc DiBella.
It's against state law for anyone to take absentee ballots out of the clerk's office. The ballots must be requested and then mailed to a voter's address, or residents can vote absentee in-person at the clerk's office.
Sorokin, a lawyer, forwarded a copy of the election complaint to Town and City Clerk John Bazzano and to Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane.
"If the incident did occur, I think it shows a desperation on the part of the opposing slate of candidates," Sorokin said. "Somebody needs to answer some tough questions as to how this possibly could have happened."
In a letter to Kane, Sorokin identified Soldevila as "a candidate on the opposing slate of candidates," but he said Wednesday that it was a drafting error, and that Soldevila is just working for the opposing slate.
Cruz said Wednesday that she filed the complaint at the urging of her former sister-in-law, Luz Sullivan, who is a candidate on the Roldan slate. She said Sullivan told her to file the complaint after Cruz mentioned that Soldevila picked up the absentee ballots.
John Kennelly, an attorney representing the DiBella slate, said the allegations are false.
"I am extremely confident that the SEEC will view this complaint with the same disdain and lack of merit that I do," he said. "I'm confident that these baseless charges will be dismissed. They lack all credibility and are merely an attempt by Rep. Roldan… to influence the election process through mudslinging."
Cruz said in her complaint that Soldevila visited her on Feb. 4 and asked her to sign an application for an absentee ballot, which she did "with the understanding that [Soldevila] would return it to city hall."
Cruz said she expected that city hall would mail her an absentee ballot, and that she would mail it back. But a week later, she wrote in the complaint, Soldevila turned up at her home again, this time with three absentee ballots — for Cruz, her husband and her daughter-in-law. She said Soldevila asked her to fill out a ballot, which she did, and put it into an envelope.
"Before I had a chance to place the envelope in the mail, Ms. Soldevila returned to my home and picked up the envelope, and told me that she would return it to city hall. This happened about two days after she brought the ballots," Cruz wrote.
Bazzano said, however, that the ballots were not dropped off, but that his office received the three absentee ballots by mail in sealed envelopes, which had been stamped and postmarked. He said the office would never accept hand-delivered ballots.
"We have the proof and the facts to back up that we did it right," Bazzano said. "All of the envelopes are clearly stamped and postmarked. The allegations are completely false. There's absolutely no way this could have happened."
In the letter to Kane, Sorokin wrote: "Not only did Ms. Soldevila potentially violate election law by personally handling absentee ballots, but a question also arises with respect to how she came into possession of the ballots in the first place."
But in her complaint, Cruz wrote that Soldevila only asked her to fill out one ballot and put it in an envelope.
"Ms. Soldevila told me to execute the ballot, I filled it out and placed it in the envelope," she wrote.
The town committee election is March 6.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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