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Libertarian candidates win fight for ballot access in Meriden

Libertarian candidates win fight for ballot access in Meriden

reporter photo

MERIDEN — Libertarian candidates Roger and Ellen Misbach settled a lawsuit against the Secretary of the State, and their names will appear on the November mayoral and City Council ballot.

Roger Misbach sued the Secretary of the State’s office and Secretary Denise Merrill for denying ballot access to the Misbachs over filing requirements. The parties settled the matter the day before an Oct. 10 court hearing.

Roger Misbach will appear on the ballot as the Libertarian Party’s mayoral candidate and Ellen Misbach as the City Council Area 4 candidate. 

A post on the Meriden Libertarians’ Facebook page thanks the state “for doing what parties ought to in litigation — try and resolve their differences.”

The husband and wife were originally named as placeholder candidates for the purposes of generating enough
signatures to meet the state’s filing deadlines, according to the lawsuit. Third parties often run placeholder candidates to allow time to get signatures before a party’s nominating convention, they said.

After submitting the required number of signatures to petition for a spot on the ballot in August, the state Libertarian Party nominated its candidates: Roger Misbach for mayor and Ellen Misbach as a City Council candidate in Area 4. 

According to the lawsuit, the party sent the Secretary of the State’s office notification of its slate of candidates after the convention and before the Sept. 4 deadline. But the information did not match the earlier placeholder information and the state denied them ballot access over the discrepancy. 

The lawsuit outlined the difficulties third parties face to gain ballot access, calling the petition process “arcane and outdated.” Candidates can’t use online resources and must seek invasive personal information from signers. The process poses an arbitrary burden and cost on town clerks and election officials and introduces unnecessary and costly delays into all steps of the electoral process, the lawsuit stated.

“The delay impedes and obstructs press coverage, access to debates and fundraising because it is unknown until mid-September whether or not a candidate has qualified for the ballot,” according to the lawsuit.

The Libertarians wanted a mayoral candidate to challenge unaffiliated incumbent Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who they accuse of blocking ballot access to third parties. Scarpati is running with endorsements from the Democratic and We The People parties.

Hubbard Park incident

Scarpati and the city settled a lawsuit with the Libertarian Party for $37,000 for their roles in preventing Libertarian and other third-party candidates from collecting signatures at the city’s Daffodil Festival in Hubbard Park in 2018. In addition to the costs, the city agreed not to interfere in ballot petition drives.

Roger Misbach said the incident propelled him in wanting to see Scarpati face an opponent.

“If the Republicans weren’t going to put anyone on, we were worried (Scarpati) would run unopposed. Obviously, somebody who is mayor and doesn’t understand the First Amendment shouldn’t run unopposed.”

Scarpati said the matter is settled and shouldn’t be the basis for anyone’s campaign.

“What’s happened, happened,” Scarpati said. “I’m not going to continue to talk about what happpened a year and a half ago. Roger being in the race isn’t necessarily going to change my approach or campaign. My focus is on what needs to be done for the city. I’d love to hear more about Roger’s thoughts and ideas instead of what’s happened a year and a half ago.”

Misbach claimed the city could have avoided paying the $37,000 if Scarpati made a public apology. 

Scarpati responded that the Libertarians’ offer was for him to make the public apology and to resign from office.

“When I disagreed to do that, they went up to a settlement number of $100,000 to $200,000,” Scarpati said. 

Scarpati is also being challenged by petitioning candidate Ernestine Holloway.
Twitter: @Cconnbiz