The potential of a court battle over the recount, Sunday, is closer to reality with the observations of an attorney, representing Republican Candidate Barry Lee Cohen. Cohen was reviewing absentee ballots for compliance with state law Tuesday morning, and a decision as to whether he will make a court challenge was unclear at press time.
In his report, Attorney Vincent Marino of Marino, Zabel and Schellenberg went through the process, Sunday, and red flagged several areas where he believed the process was defective during the absentee recount. He believes there are major concerns with the ballots and their compliance with state statute.
“Those not returned in compliance with state statute ‘The return of ballots in a manner not substantially in compliance with the statutory mailing requirements will result in their invalidation, regardless of whether there is any proof or indication of fraud.”
His concerns included:
The failure of the town clerk to endorse the ballot with the date, precise time and signature;
The failure of the voter to sign the statement on the inner envelope;
The failure of the voter to place the ballot in the inner envelope.
The report, which included pictures of ballots he believes are not incompliance, alleges that ballots were kept in manilla envelopes with a metal clasp, but no tape to secure them, and no “identifying serial number to ensure that the depository remained unchanged.”
Time and date stamps not appearing on outer envelopes concerned Marino greatly.
“A number of outer envelopes that were not properly endorsed by the town clerk with the date of receipt, the precise time of receipt and his signature. Some of the outer envelopes lacked the date or time of when the ballot was received and most bear the initials of someone, but not the proper signature of the town clerk. It should be noted that the Court has held that a time stamped signature of the clerk substantially complies with the statute” Marino said.
Those concerns included:
The absentee ballot counters used standard Manila envelopes with a metal clasp. There was no tape securing the envelopes, and no identifying serial number to ensure that the depository remained unchanged;
Some of the ballots, Marino believes to be unverified by lack of time and date stamps, no signatures on some ballots and ballots that were questioned were counted after a call to state officials at the Secretary of State’s office.
“A number of ballots lacked the time stamp of the clerk, being different from the rest…According to a witness I interviewed that was present on election night, at around 7:30 p.m. the Democrat registrar walked into the counting room with several new ballots. None of these ballots had any endorsement on them. When advised that the ballots had to be rejected, the registrar responded that she would confer with the CTSOS office. I have no information on whether that conference took place, but around 8:15 p.m., the registrar reappeared stating that the ballots should be counted. Prior to proceeding, one of the counters suggested that the envelopes be endorsed. All agreed and the result is what is depicted in this photo (shown in the report). There is no way to verify the precise time that the ballot was received because at or around 8:30 p.m., the envelope was endorsed, with the date of Nov. 2, a notation of receipt with an initial of someone and a time of 3 p.m.,” Marino said.
He questions, too, about inner envelopes:
“The recanvas of the absentee ballots lasted only about two hours. There were 720 absentee ballots to inspect. The recanvas was supposed to verify that: a. the number of outer and inner envelopes matched, b. each outer envelope was endorsed with the date of receipt, precise time of receipt and signature of the town clerk. c. the inner envelope was signed by the voter 8 d. and against the check list to verify i. postmarks, ii. addresses and iii. check list markings e. and to verify that the number of outer and inner absentee ballot envelopes is the same as the number of persons checked as having voted by absentee ballot. The integrity of all the absentee ballots is brought into question because the statutory process was not followed. The chain of custody cannot be verified which brings the legitimacy of the ballot into question. Ballots which are generated as a result of statutory violations should be invalidated.
At press time it was unclear if Cohen would bring his concerns to Superior Court, but he has until next week to make that decision.
“The voters have a powerful interest in the integrity and accuracy of elections. We shouldn’t expect perfection in the administration of an election, but we are entitled to integrity in the process and a fundamentally fair and honest election,” he said.