Supreme Court to decide ballot layout and sovereign immunity

Courant: Ballot-Line Fight Goes To Supreme Court Wednesday <read>

The state Supreme Court, moving swiftly, will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether Republicans should replace Democrats at the top of the ballot in November.

In a lawsuit that it filed just last month, the state Republican Party argued that it should receive the top ballot line after the complicated results of the 2010 gubernatorial election…

Although Democrat Dannel P. Malloy won the governor’s race in 2010, he did it with a combination of votes from both the Democratic Party and the union-backed Working Families Party. In the tight race, Republican Tom Foley captured more votes on the Republican line than Malloy did on the Democratic line. With that result, Republicans say that their party should get the top line because they received more votes than any other party.

The GOP sued Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who ruled that the Democrats should keep the top line on the 2012 ballot. Republicans had questioned an original decision by Merrill, a longtime Democrat, to place the Democrats on the top line for the 2011 municipal elections.

But Merrill says the precise wording of the law means that the party of the candidate with the most votes overall — Malloy and the Democrats, in this case — should go on top…

But the state attorney general’s office, arguing on behalf of Merrill, says in a 37-page legal brief that the case should be dismissed because Merrill acted within her legal boundaries. In addition, attorneys are invoking the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which prevents some lawsuits from being filed against the state.

Here is the text of the Connecticut law, New York’s law might not be identical:

Sec. 9-249a. Order of parties on the ballot label. (a) The names of the parties shall be arranged on the machines in the following order:

(1) The party whose candidate for Governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election; …

I am not a lawyer, however: The law reads like the Secretary of the State is correct in interpreting the law. But it will be a tough precedent if the court accepts the sovereign immunity argument – I would think that would make it harder to sue over any election issue, including when the Secretary has declared an election winner.

Earlier coverage <read>

Update: 9/12/2012 CTMirror: Both sides cite history in election ballot order battle <read>

Before the Supreme Court, the thicket gets more dense, with precedent and changes in the law, with deadlines approaching!

Update 9/2/2012: Court rules, Republicans get top line <verdict>

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One response to “Supreme Court to decide ballot layout and sovereign immunity”

  1. mattw

    Reading the briefs, though, the state makes it clear that they believe there are exceptions to sovereign immunity for those wishing to sue SOTS under title 9 — but those exceptions apply only to “electors” and “candidates,” and the Republican Party (as sole plaintiff) is neither.

    Also of note, the Courant slipped on the New York thing — the Republicans may have talked about the New York case in their press conference, but it is not mentioned in their case before the court. The Republicans instead look back to the 1938 Raymond Baldwin / Wilbur Cross election (which saw the party which lost due to votes from cross-endorsement nonetheless obtain Line A) and the 1908 ballot order statute (which survived in various forms until being repealed in 2011), and argue that the now-repealed statute should dictate the interpretation of 249a because the two were on the books together for several decades.

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