The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Election Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Booth, George


SC20029, SC20040 - Keeley v. Ayala (Elections; primaries; action brought by aggrieved candidate pursuant to statute (§ 9-329a) to challenge absentee balloting process during special primary and seeking order directing new special primary; reservation of questions of law; appeal from trial court's judgment; "This appeal requires us to interpret and apply various statutory provisions that govern the casting of absentee ballots in a municipal primary election. On November 14, 2017, a special primary was held in the city of Bridgeport to nominate candidates from the Democratic party to run in the general election for two seats on the Bridgeport City Council. After the results of the Democratic special primary were determined, the plaintiff, Robert T. Keeley, Jr., a losing candidate, challenged them pursuant to General Statutes § 9-329a, claiming that several improprieties in the absentee balloting process had undermined the reliability of the outcome. Following an expedited hearing, the trial court agreed with three of the plaintiff's claims of impropriety and ordered, as a remedy, that a new special primary be held. The defendants, a winning candidate and certain city officials involved in the election process (city defendants), thereafter filed with the trial court a reservation of four questions of law, which that court certified and transmitted to this court for review pursuant to General Statutes § 9-325. The defendants also filed an appeal raising the same issues as those raised in the certified questions. The defendants claim that the trial court improperly concluded that (1) General Statutes § 9-140b (a) prohibits a party official or candidate from directing a police officer to retrieve absentee ballots from electors and to deliver them to the town clerk, (2) certain absentee ballots were not "mailed," as contemplated by § 9-140b (c), and (3) supervised absentee balloting at a certain nursing home did not comply with the statutory provisions governing that process. The defendants also claim generally that the trial court improperly allocated the burden of proof applicable to the proceedings, effectively placing on them the burden of disproving the plaintiff's allegations. We agree with the defendants' third claim but disagree with their remaining claims. Because the number of absentee ballots invalidated as a result of our disposition of the issues remains sufficiently high to place the reliability of the November 14, 2017 special primary results seriously in doubt, we affirm the judgment of the trial court ordering a new special primary.")