Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
January 13, 2006
Secretary of the State
Thank you for your letter of
Neither the Connecticut General Statutes nor any regulation explicitly uses the term “ full face ballot” or specifies its use for any kind of voting machine. Nor has this office or the Secretary of the State (“Secretary”) ever issued a formal opinion requiring that voting machines utilize a full face ballot.1 The Office of the Secretary has long required full face ballots for lever voting machines, and has on occasion informally advised the public of this view. In light of
We find nothing in current law, regulation or practice that requires the full face ballot interpretation to be applied to electronic voting machines, which are substantially different in format and function. Significantly, the recent passage of Public 05-188, spelling out detailed requirements for electronic voting machines, does not include a requirement for full face ballots. This omission leads directly to the conclusion that the legislature did not require full face ballots in such machines. The legislature may always add this requirement if it deems it appropriate.
By way of background, a “full face” ballot simultaneously displays to the voter, on a single page or screen, all the candidates for all offices. Such a ballot is distinguished from a “vote by office” ballot, which presents the candidates for each office on a separate page or screen. For example, a vote by office ballot would present all the candidates for Governor on one page or screen, followed by all the candidates for Lieutenant Governor on the next page or screen, and so on.
We understand that your office based its informal advice requiring full face ballots for lever voting machines on its interpretation of Section 9-250 of the General Statutes, as well as on
In determining the meaning and scope of Section 9-250 and other statutes as they may relate to electronic voting machines, we must look to each statute’s language, history and context. See, e.g., State v. Patterson, 2005 Conn. Lexis 531 (
The most relevant statute, originally enacted over a century ago, has no express reference to “full face” ballots. See
The Secretary’s interpretation of Section 9-250 to require full face ballots on lever voting machines was undoubtedly a product of several historical election practices. Prior to 1909, political parties distributed their own ballots, listing just their own candidates, which were filled out by voters either at the polling place or elsewhere and delivered to polling officials. See Connecticut General Statutes, <st2:country-region>
A full face ballot requirement is compatible with
There is no requirement in Section 9-250 of any particular form of voting machine. Through its latest amendment in 1987, this state has utilized lever voting machines almost exclusively. Thus, the Legislature was acting against a very different factual backdrop when it last revisited Section 9-250 in 1987.
In the 2005 legislative session, the Legislature for the first time explicitly addressed the use of electronic voting machines and mandated detailed requirements for such machines. In Public Act 05-188, the Legislature established construction requirements for “[a]ny direct recording electronic voting machine approved by the Secretary of the State for an election or primary held on or after
We conclude that the legislature did not intend to require full face ballots in electronic voting machines. This conclusion is strongly supported by the history of the voting process in
I hope this opinion responds to your question. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter.
Very truly yours,
1 Your office has promulgated a regulation concerning the form of ballots, which does not explicitly require a full face ballot.That regulation requires as follows:
In an election, the ballot shall be clearly displayed in the proper format, so that the names of the parties arelisted, as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-250, with identifiable buttons or other markings associated with each candidate's name, the office for which he is running and the political party or organization which nominated him. In a primary, the names of candidates shall appear on the ballot in accordance with
Reg. Conn. State Agencies 9-241-11.
2 We understand that this interpretation has been applied consistently only to lever voting machines. While paper absentee ballots usually conform to the full face format, when the list of offices and candidates is lengthy, a ballot consisting of more than one page, divided into columns and rows, has been permitted.
3While the legislative history surrounding the 1909 statutory revision is not available, the likely legislative purpose in adopting the Australian ballot was to combat the evils of party-issued ballots by requiring that a single ballot from an official source list all parties’ candidates. See, e.g., Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 356 (1997) (“[A]fter the 1888 presidential election, which was widely regarded as having been plagued by fraud, many states moved to the ‘Australian ballot system.’ Under that system, an official ballot, containing the names of all the candidates legally nominated by all the parties, was printed at public expense and distributed by public officials at polling places.”)
4 The legislative history of P.A. 05-188 includes no discussion of full face ballots for electronic voting machines.
5 Express statutory requirements applicable to all forms of voting, such as those specifying the order of parties (Section 9-249a) and offices (Section 9-251) on the ballot, the names to appear on the ballot (Section 9-250), and other technical requirements would apply to electronic voting machines. This opinion only addresses the full face ballot issue, which is not expressly required by any statute or regulation, and only arises from a longstanding interpretation of the Secretary of the State’s office as applied to lever voting machines.