Republican wins Connecticut House race after ‘error’ declared Democrat winner


WALLINGFORD, CT – Connecticut GOP House Representative Craig Fishbein had been declared the losing candidate in the race for his seat. That was until a town clerk found an “error” had caused the race to be incorrectly called for his Democratic opponent.

Rep. Craig Fishbein (R) from Wallingford won the seat in a special election after the death of Rep. Mary Fritz in 2016.

Fishbein was running against Democratic opponent Jim Jinks during last week’s election in the 90th House District. Jinks was a late coming opponent, not entering the race until June 2020.

Somehow, the campaigns of Fishbein and Jinks were misled by incomplete vote counts to believe Jinks had won the election. However, Wallingford town clerk Barbara Thompson said Tuesday that her office had discovered votes that had not been recorded in the state’s election reporting system from Yalesville Elementary School.

Now corrected unofficial results show Rep. Fishbein won by a mere 21 votes over Jinks.

House Speaker-designate Matt Ritter (D), said he was uncertain how failing to post accurate results would change the outcome that the two campaigns had recorded a week ago.

Candidates usually rely on vote count reports from the polls, not those published in the state’s election reporting system. Ritter declined any further comment until he and his staff could get more details.

“I just heard about it two minutes ago,” Ritter said.

These updated results mean a swing of more than 100 votes in the tally from Jinks to Fishbein. Representative Vincent J. Candelora (R), the new House GOP leader, said, “What a roller coaster.”

As of Wednesday morning, unofficial results on the secretary of state’s elections website showed incumbent Fishbein ahead of challenger Jim Jinks. However, a recount will be conducted Thursday because of a margin of less than 0.50 percent.

Yalesville Elementary School is one of nine polling places in the 90th House District that includes Wallingford and Cheshire. Thompson said:

“I can’t answer if it was a clerical error or a computer error in the elections management system. All I know is we caught it yesterday and amended it.”

The tally on the state’s election reporting system now shows Fishbein with 7,058 votes and 7,037 for Jinks, or 50.07 % to 49.93%. Under state law, a recount is automatic when the race is settled by a margin of less than 0.50%. The difference in the 90th House District is about 0.15%.

While votes are tabulated by optical scanners, the numbers are manually uploaded by local officials into the election management system maintained by the secretary of state’s office. The official statement of the vote from each community is filed in writing after a review by the clerk and registrars of voters.

During the pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont (D) and his administration worked to waive regulations for the use of absentee ballots to ensure more voters could cast their ballots by mail and encouraged them to do so.

Connecticut had over 650,000 people vote by “absentee ballot with no excuse”.

Ritter says he plans to focus on suburban zoning reform, early voting, marijuana legalization, and a public health insurance option in the coming legislative session.

Connecticut’s U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy joined Secretary of State Denise Merrill, hoping to make some changes on Friday. With President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud in some states due, in part, to mail-in ballots, the Connecticut trio will urge the state legislature to pass an amendment to the Constitution to allow regular vote-by-mail and early voting.

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Connecticut’s constitution does not currently allow early voting or mail-in voting. Because of the pandemic,  Gov. Lamont told citizens in April that because of his “stay-at-home rule,” he was “going to have to find a way people can vote — and especially seniors — so they don’t have to leave their houses and go vote.”

Lamont said:

“So, obviously, voting by mail makes a lot of sense to me. Now, I need the lawyers to figure out how to draft that.”

Using the pandemic as background, Secretary of State Merrill sent every voter in the state an unsolicited application for an absentee ballot. The state Constitution, however, would need to be amended to allow mail-in and early voting for any reason at all.

“Connecticut is in the Neanderthal era,” Blumenthal said, just as mail-in ballots are a focus of intense controversy in the presidential election.

Under normal circumstances, the deadline for reporting final results are within 48 hours after an election. In this election, the deadline was extended to 96 hours because of the expected heavy use of absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effective deadline was Monday, the first business day after the 96 hours.

If Fishbein is deemed the winner, House Democrats will still hold a majority of 97-54.

 “There’s no circumstance when an error like that is not caught and corrected,” Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the secretary of state, said.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment.


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