In this second part, the SEEC’s ruling given on Sept. 21, 2022 is examined below, followed by additional questions. The following are key points that readers should note out of others.
Sources and Serialization of Applications
- the investigation revealed common confusion both among town clerks and distributors as to the questions of the correct source of the AB applications and the requirements for marking them with the town’s name and a unique number assigned by the town clerk.
- many of the respondent distributors got their copy of the AB application from the one available on the Secretary of State’s website….which is only intended for individual use, and not for distribution.
- Many such uses …. were done with the knowledge and in some cases consent and/or urging of town clerk.
- There was considerable confusion of over whether…..applications could be obtained virtually, and from which source.
- Governor’s EO 10E, which read in part: “Posting of the AB applications on Municipal or Regional Board of Education Web Sites.” The order was extended through June 30, 2021 by EO 12B.
- EO 12B caused confusion among town clerks, many of whom interpreted it to mean that they could simply post a link to the secretary of state’s application.
- Many town clerks were unaware that the provision expired on June 30, 2021 and kept them up on their websites throughout the 2021 General Election season.
- in almost every distribution, a unique number was included on the AB application. However, in many cases, such number…..[was] generated by the distributor for such distributor’s own record keeping
- in file No. 2021-205….the subcontractor who … did the numbering for the distributor instead included their own numbers. After investigation of the incorrect numbers, it was verified….that a town clerk in another town had wrongly advised the subcontractor.
- Compliance with the requirement that the AB application include the name of the town was very low. Less than half … contained both the correct serial number and town name.
- The Commission’s own “Do’s and Don’ts” document….failed to include mention of the requirements: including town name and consecutively numbering applications. This omission was subsequently remedied in June 2022
Record Maintenance and Timely Submission to the Town Clerk
- Each distributor was found to have complied with the requirement of keeping a list of the name of each individual to whom an AB application was provided. The timely submission of such list was made in most—not all—of the matters.
Warnings Included in Unsolicited Applications
- the investigation did not find an instance in which a distributor failed to include a warning that complied with the requirements of section 9-140.
Analysis and Conclusion
- Turning to the facts here, as an initial matter, the Commission investigation uncovered no evidence suggesting that the respondent distributors in these matters distributed applications with anything other than the best intentions.
- Moreover, in no instance was there any circumstance found in which a law enforcement entity would have been unable to eventually associate the applications with the appropriate distributors in the event of an investigation into potentially fraudulent activity.
- Additionally, the investigation … revealed ….a considerable and well-founded amount of confusion among the election community—including but not limited to veteran elections officials—as to the appropriate procedures for making a distribution of AB applications.
- As concerns the respondent distributors….the issues here came to the fore largely due to….an unprecedented expansion of AB access and a widespread education gap in how to appropriately account for large-scale distributions.
- Considering these matters in total light of the above….the Commission declines to conclude that it is necessary to take action against any individual respondent distributor here concerning failures found….
- However….failure to comply with these mandatory distribution requirements runs the risk of obstructing law enforcement entities such as SEEC in conducting effective investigations. The Commission expects that these respondent distributors, as all as [all municipal town clerks] will strictly comply in the future with the….provisions of CGS 9-140. While the Commission is not issuing penalties here, the Commission will meet future noncompliance with these….requirements, by either distributors or Town Clerks, with severe consequences.
- Additionally, the Commission also notes that while the Commission concludes that a distributor must meet all the distribution requirements in GS 9-140, a failure to do so does not invalidate the AB application for the elector.
- Any election official failing to issue an AB upon receipt of an otherwise validly executed application risks violating, inter alia, GS 9-140 and disenfranchising such elector.
- Considering the aforesaid, the Commission declines to take any further action concerning the above-captioned matters.
- Given the “large gap in education” pertaining to AB applications, was the Secretary of State’s office expecting large-scale distributions? If so, how on earth was the need for clearer information overlooked?
- When the SEEC mentions “an investigation” under bullet 4 in Analysis and Conclusion, what exactly is meant by that? It doesn’t seem that the SEEC investigations result in any real consequences for violators.
- Under Analysis and Conclusion, bullet 6, the Commission also mentions “severe consequences” for compliance failures; what does that entail?
It is reasonable to conclude that due to the this and other consistent rulings of “no further action” recommended, the SEEC cannot be taken seriously as a body of law enforcement as it pertains to absentee ballot applications, nor absentee ballots.