Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 12, 2006
The Honorable Susan Bysiewicz
Secretary of the State
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Secretary Bysiewicz:
You ask for our opinion on whether you may issue rulings on two issues that have been presented to you: (1) whether to approve the party designation "Independent Party" proposed by the Independent Party of Waterbury in connection with an anticipated gubernatorial candidacy, and (2) whether to accept 2,000 petition signatures gathered by the Independent Party of Waterbury under the name "Independent Party CT" in reliance on advice from your office, which advice your office later rescinded.
Under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-3, the Secretary of the State ("the Secretary"), as Commissioner of Elections, has authority to issue "declaratory rulings, instructions and opinions" relating to the "interpretation and effectuation of election law", including the law governing reservation of party designations. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-3. Section 9-3 of the General Statutes also provides that the Secretary's rulings and opinions regarding election law are presumed correct. Id. Thus, as Commissioner of Elections, you have the statutory authority to answer the questions presented to you.In exercising your authority and discretion to issue rulings and instructions under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-3, there are two additional factors that you may wish to consider in determining the appropriate ruling.
First, with regard to the acceptance of signatures, you may consider the effect of prior advice from your office, now rescinded, upon which one or more persons may have relied to their detriment in gathering petition signatures. As Commissioner of Elections, you have authority to issue rulings and instructions necessary to remedy possible harm -- such as the potential disapproval of 2000 petition signatures -- flowing from reliance on advice subsequently determined to be erroneous.
Second, in deciding how to advise parties with regard to reservation of party designations, you should develop clear and consistent standards to further the intent of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-453u, which, at least in relevant part, is the avoidance of voter confusion.
I hope this answers your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance on this or any other matters.
Very truly yours,