By Josh LaBella
In a move Debbie Collins is calling a political stunt, incumbent City Treasurer Mike Last has contacted the Secretary of State’s office to request the City Clerk-turned-mayoral-candidate be removed from the absentee ballot process.
Last also requested Secretary of State Denise Merrill send a monitor to oversee the Sept. 10 primary election.
“As the Democratic Town Chair, I am supporting the endorsed Democratic team headed by Mayor Nancy Rossi, but in my capacity, also want to the process is fair for all Democratic candidates that will be participating in the primary on September 10th,” said Last in a letter to Merrill. “I believe it to be a conflict of interest for Ms. Collins to continue to be involved In the election process, specifically as her role pertains to the absentee ballot process.”
In the email the letter was sent, Last said he could not remember an election during Collins’s tenure as City Clerk where there were not issues with the absentee ballot process.
“There have been elections where it was said that more absentee ballots were cast than names crossed off the voting roles,” said Last. “This is why we are so concerned especially now that she is a candidate for mayor.”
Theodore Bromley, the Director of Elections in the Legislation and Election Administration Division of the Secretary of State’s office, replied that they had already been in contact with Collins about her role will be in the election process.
“As you are aware, her primary responsibility is to issue and handle absentee ballots,” said Bromley. “We advised that she would be able to issue or mail an absentee ballot to anyone who has requested a ballot.”
Bromley said they advised Collins that she not receive or handle any absentee ballots, store them for counting, prepare them for counting or interact with voted absentee ballots in any way. He added that the responsibility be left to the assistant city clerk in order to avoid violating any laws or appearing improper.
“In addition, she is allowed to be present to witness the set-up and testing of voting machines as a candidate, but may not participate in such process,” said Bromley. “Finally, as a candidate, she should not be present while any absentee ballot is being voted.”
Bromley said that their office could not send a monitor to the Sept. 10 primary.
“Our office does not have the statutory authority, or the resources, to monitor or intervene in the daily functions of a municipal office,” said Bromley.
Collins said Last could have come to ask her instead of going to the Secretary of State first. She said she has recused herself and discussed with the office what she can and cannot do. Collins had said in a previous issue that she would not risk jail time over an election.
“The ballots will no longer be in my office,” said Collins. “They will be in the outer office in a locked cabinet. We’re going to follow the letter of the law.”