Jeff Burgess, who heads the Ridgefield Independent Party, said he submitted a petition by the Sept. 4 deadline set by the Secretary of the State's office, and he said he thought he met all the requirements.
All the requirements were not met, said Town Clerk Barbara Serfilippi, because each candidate for office was supposed to sign their name on the petition. No one had signed.
This requirement was approved and used in the 2011 election, Serfilippi said, but it appears the Secretary of the State is enforcing it this year across the state. Minor party candidates also failed to get the signatures in time to make the ballot in the towns of Easton, Fairfield, East Hampton, Bethel and Simsbury this year.
"The town clerk tried to help us out and get the signatures after the fact, but the Secretary of the State would not accept that," Burgess said.
Serfilippi said the state doesn't have a specific form for a third party to fill out when submitting names for an election. She said it's a written petition with the names, addresses and offices they're running for. Now, in addition to that, each candidate has to sign the form.
Burgess said he was upset by this setback, but the party will work on growing larger over the next two years. He wants to field candidates in 2015.
"We'll be aggressively recruiting people for the Independent Party," Burgess said.
Av Harris, director of communications for the Secretary of the State's Office, said this issue was well known by the Town Clerks across the state, and they made this ruling, not the Secretary of the State's Office.
office made no such ruling and in fact in a municipal election year, it
is only the Town Clerk who has the legal authority to make the
determination whether or not a minor party endorsement certificate is
filed properly and has all of the requisite information. Our office, in
this case and others, does not see the actual filings of minor or major
party endorsements. Those all go to the town clerks. The extent of
our involvement in this case was to answer a question from the town
clerk in Ridgefield as to what state election statutes required of a
minor party endorsement, which we did," Harris wrote to Ridgefield Patch, asking for a correction.
He continued, "I know there is a lot of talk among town clerks that our office failed to inform them that signatures were required along with minor party endorsements, but in fact we did inform all town clerks and Registrars of voters in the state of this change in the law when it happened in 2011. And in addition to that we have done subsequent training with the town clerks about this and other election related matters at the Town clerk conferences and at training events for newly elected town clerks. I can send you the memo we sent out regarding this change in the law if you would like to see it. It is also the responsibility of the candidates for any party and the party to know what information is needed with paperwork filed for a candidacy."