Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Secretary of State Denise Merrill face a proposed class action lawsuit that challenges the requirement for candidates to collect in-person signatures on paper petitions in order to access the ballot for the state’s August 11, 2020 primary election.
Further, the 13-page complaint challenges Connecticut’s use of in-person ballots for the August 11 primary and November 3 general elections, and seeks a declaratory judgment that the mandates are unconstitutional, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
In essence, the plaintiffs argue the coronavirus pandemic and the infection risk presented by close interaction with others calls for the state to reevaluate how candidates can gain access to the ballot—and how voters can exercise their rights safely. From the suit:
“Circulating petitions for signature is not listed as an ‘essential business’ under any of Defendant Lamont’s emergency public health orders. The health crisis coupled with the Defendant’s stay-at-home orders make it impossible to gather enough signatures in enough time for candidates with significant support to access the ballot unless they attain the support of 15% of party delegates at a convention. This will, unless remedied, severely restrict the ability of Plaintiffs and other voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”
According to the lawsuit, Connecticut has “among the strictest” ballot access and absentee voting laws nationwide, and the state’s restrictions on such are bound to place “an unconstitutional severe undue burden” on voters looking to vote for the candidate of their choice come August and November. The plaintiffs charge that without court intervention, thousands of Connecticut voters will have their choice of primary candidate “unduly and unjustifiably restricted” by the state’s ballot access laws, which can require thousands of signatures on paper petitions in order for a candidate to access the ballot. Similarly, Connecticut's absentee ballot statutes pose a great risk to voters during the pandemic, according to the complaint.
“Unless remedied, Connecticut’s Absentee Ballot Laws … will give Plaintiffs and thousands of Connecticut voters a stark choice in the primary and general elections: either risk infection from a dangerous disease by voting in person; vote by mail utilizing the excuses provided for under state law and risk criminal prosecution for false statement; or be disenfranchised,” the lawsuit says.
The suit points to recent events in Wisconsin as an example of the “disarray and voter confusion” that can stem from insufficiently planned elections held during a pandemic. The plaintiffs, Connecticut voters, have filed the case “to force action at the earliest possible time,” the lawsuit reads.
One plaintiff ran for the Connecticut senate in 2018 yet fell short of ballot access by 32 signatures as a result of the state’s ballot access laws, the case says. The other plaintiff, who the suit says is a frontline essential worker, served as the former’s treasurer during the 2018 election and says she was prevented from voting for the man due to Connecticut’s ballot access laws.
The lawsuit says petitions for access to Connecticut’s ballot will be made available to the Secretary of State on May 26, and must be turned in by June 9. Connecticut’s presidential primary was pushed back from April 28 to August 11 due to the COVID-19 crisis
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.