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Does Hartford Primary Need An Election Monitor?

Hartford Courant Editorial

February 26, 2010

Democratic Town Committee electioneering in Hartford often pushes too hard against the boundaries of the law so much so that the secretary of the state's office may send a team to monitor next Tuesday's primary. Where are former President Jimmy Carter and his seasoned team of observers when they're needed to ensure a fair election?

To recount the list of political shenanigans, last month a challenge slate in the 4th District filed a complaint alleging that Mayor Eddie Perez and Police Chief Daryl Roberts used their authority to deny members of one slate access to housing complexes in the city to gather petition signatures while circulators from another slate were given access.

Messrs. Perez and Roberts deny involvement.

Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, with a copy to the state's attorney's office, alleging that a U.S. Census brochure telling people how to get a job as a census taker was illegally altered to include the names of candidates on a challenge slate running for town committee from the 5th District. The thrust was that "these people can get you jobs."

The name of longtime North End political boss Abe Giles was listed, though he is not a member of the challenge slate.

Finally, the 5th District town committee candidates being challenged by the slate associated with Mr. Giles has filed a lawsuit against Hartford's Democratic registrar of voters, Olga Iris Vazquez, who happens to be a member of the opposing slate, along with her husband, Radames Vazquez, and her mother-in-law, Juanita Giles, the wife of Abe Giles.

The suit alleges that as registrar, Ms. Vazquez accepted petition signatures for her slate that were not properly completed by circulators. The suit also alleges that when the registrar realized that some of the petitions were improper, she had a deputy remove them from the clerk's office to be completed after the deadline for submission had passed. If the invalid signatures are subtracted, the suit alleges, the Vazquez slate would not qualify for the ballot.

A decision is expected today.

Obviously, petition signatures that qualify candidates or slates of candidates for a place on the ballot should be valid and submitted before the deadline, not after.

But an equally important issue here is the candidacy of Ms. Vazquez, one of the three registrars of voters in Hartford. What is she doing on the ballot, competing against candidates whose own petition signatures she, in her official capacity, can accept or reject?

This is a conflict if ever there was one. There oughtta be a law.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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